The Best Way to Donate to the Fire Department

 We all too often lament how human beings have become harsh, crass, and generally not very nice to their fellow human beings. But no one can argue that a disaster which affects a community or a large geographic area brings out the best in people. This was certainly true with the recent brush fires that blackened areas from Malibu to Thousand Oaks. The firefighting effort was herculean and pulled in fire resources from Ventura County, L.A. County, and Los Angeles City. Other departments from within the area and outside of it also responded. It is necessary to keep in mind that another even more devastating fire was also taking place in Northern California. 

One thing we saw, at both of those fires, was the generosity of the average citizen at its best. Here in Southern California, local L.A. City Fire Stations, including those in our TNN area, found themselves getting “drop-offs” of goods meant to assist firefighters and residents in the burn zone. These items included, but were not limited to, water (sometimes by the pallet), Gatorade/sports drinks, personal hygiene items, lip balm, fresh fruit, clothes, N-95 breathing masks, energy drinks, toothpaste, toys for kids, candy, and prepared food. 

L.A. City Fire and the other fire departments gladly accepted these items and got a good chunk of it out to the firefighters and members of the community who could benefit from them most. But unfortunately at many of our stations, the crews were literally overwhelmed by the giving that was coming from the community. The stations hit a saturation level where they could not back their rigs in because their garage was jammed from floor to ceiling with donated items. 
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The truth is that it takes a lot of work to get all of the donated goods physically moved from the fire stations to specific storage points. It was a logistical effort to get the stations cleared and back into full operation. My Community Emergency Response Team was there and handled much, if not all, of the transfer of goods which took at least three days to complete. So I'd like to share some pointers on the most effective way to donate. According to the L.A.F.D.’s Public Information Office, the BEST way to give to any effort that involves the fire department is to give hard, cold cash. This can be done, in the city of Los Angeles, by donating to the LAFD Foundation www.supportlafd.org and earmarking that donation to go to whatever the effort is, such as “Firefighter Supplies & Equipment” or something of that nature. 

One thing that kept popping up in the donation caches was actual prepared food. Food, in all of its forms, can be problematic when it is made part of a donation package. There are specific guidelines as to what types of food can be sent out onto the fire lines to our personnel. Feeding firefighters is an exacting art that is detailed in a 40-hour class that Logistics Managers must take through the State of California/Cal Fire and be certified. Foods with mayonnaise, cheese, milk, and other perishable ingredients are a “no can do” on the fire lines because you run the risk of sending food out there that has spoiled due to delays in shipping or high temperatures. There’s also the question of the handling of food. The food you cook in your kitchen may be great for you and your family, but it might not be fit for personnel per those same state guidelines I just mentioned. 

I mentioned earlier in the article that we picked up shipments that had energy drinks in them such as “Red Bull” or “Monster.” In L.A. City, these drinks are okay for personnel to consume on their own time and off the fire lines. However, when they are working any scene ,whether it is a structure fire or a major brush assignment, these drinks are not allowed. Why? Although these drinks may keep them working for a bit longer, they do nothing to replace lost minerals and fluids needed to regulate body temperature and overall health. The only drinks that are routinely given out are Gatorade or similar electrolyte replacement drinks and water. 

Every fire department will accept a donation as it is an effort of goodwill from the community that they love seeing, but for those of you on the giving end, keep in mind that you want to send items that can be used. Again, the LAFD recommends that you give through the LAFD Foundation. In doing that, you allow the department to take your funds and buy exactly what they need and what they can use for our men and women on the front lines. 


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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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