By Talya Meyers
The largest of more than a dozen wildfires to erupt across the southwestern United States has forced tens of thousands of people from their homes and threatened entire villages.
Propelled by high winds and defying the efforts of more than 1,800 firefighters and other responders, the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak Fire has spread to more than 236,000 acres in New Mexico, according to the government’s National Wildfire Coordinating Group. A spokesman for the state governor said 277 structures had been destroyed so far.
In anticipation of wildfires, Direct Relief’s 155,000 square foot medical distribution center in Santa Barbara, California holds a large inventory of frequently requested medical help during these emergencies. This inventory includes N95 masks, inhalers, eye drops, asthma medication and chronic disease medication, which are often needed by evacuees who left their homes without them.
Direct Relief Response
Last week, Direct Relief delivered a emergency delivery of air purifiers, N95 masks and personal care products requested by Tewa Women United, an Indigenous women-led organization that also received a grant from the Direct Relief Fund for Health Equity. This organization serves a community currently affected by the wildfire network.
In addition, the organization established initial contact with New Mexico Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters and with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the ground in New Mexico.
Direct Relief has a long history of responding to wildfires, particularly in the western United States and has already responded to several wildfires this fire season, including the Tunnel Fire, which burned nearly 2,000 acres in Arizona.
In an emergency such as a wildfire, groups serving affected communities typically make requests for medical assistance within days or weeks of detecting the acute threat, while emergency responders, health care providers and others assess medical needs in the field.
Wildfires pose an obvious and immediate threat to health, frequently causing burns, injuries, and respiratory and cardiovascular problems. But when people leave their homes and communities, they often leave behind their medications, such as those to manage diabetes and high blood pressure. If left unmanaged, chronic diseases can become deadly, requiring urgent care and further draining the resources of hospitals working to respond to the emergency.
Direct Relief is ready to provide a wide range of medical support over the coming weeks and will continue to communicate with organizations working on the ground to assess and prepare to meet needs.