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Buddhist Humanitarian Organization Tzu Chi USA Offers a Helping Hand to California Wildfire Victims

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The Camp Fire was the deadliest wildfire in California history, with at least 85 fatalities. From tzuchi.us
The Camp Fire was the deadliest wildfire in California history, with at least 85 fatalities. From tzuchi.us

Buddhist humanitarian organization Tzu Chi USA announced over the weekend that it will offer cash cards to those affected by the deadly Camp Fire in Northern California, including most of the town of Paradise. Those affected by the fire can fill out an online application (see below), or text the number 530-636-0820. The Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, with at least 85 fatalities and estimated recovery costs in the billions of dollars.

“When the fire happened the first thing we do is go to the shelters to shelter people and give out blankets,” said Minjhing Hsieh, CEO of the Tzu Chi Foundation for the northwest region. “And now in the second phase, we are trying to distribute cash to the survivors.” Many volunteers from the Bay Area came out to help during their free time. The group is also known to have helped people during the Carr Fire in Redding [California] earlier this year. (Action News Now)

Tzu Chi, which means “Compassionate Relief,” was founded in Taiwan in 1966 by Master Cheng Yen, a Taiwanese nun. Today it has members active in 47 countries, providing medical aid, disaster relief, and environmental work. Tzu Chi is considered one of the “Four Great Mountains” of Taiwanese Buddhism, alongside Fo Guang Shan, Dharma Drum Mountain, and Chung Tai Shan.

Damage map of the Camp Fire from space. From nasa.gov
Damage map of the Camp Fire from space. From nasa.gov

Tzu Chi USA and its global partners have long been a leading global Buddhist aid network. Their four main causes are “charity, medicine, education, and humanity,” and they have further expanded to work in bone marrow donation, environmental protection, community volunteerism, and international relief. These efforts are highlighted by their official motto, or concept of “Four Major Missions” and “Tzu Chi’s Eight footprints.” (Tzu Chi Missions)

The Camp Fire is named after its place of origin, Camp Creek Road in Butte County, north of Sacramento. It began on 8 November and was not fully contained until 25 November. The causes are still unknown, according to media reports, and power utility PG&E may be under criminal investigation for failing to turn off power lines despite the dangerous conditions. The fire grew rapidly due to low humidity and strong winds in the area and it could only be contained after heavy rains fell on 22 and 23 November. 

Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, links these and other unusually destructive fires in the state to climate change: “We’ve been lengthening the fire season by shortening the precipitation season, and we’re warming throughout,” said Swain. “That’s essentially what’s enabled these recent fires to be so destructive, at times of the year when you wouldn’t really expect them.” (National Geographic)

The Tzu Chi Foundation marks its one-year anniversary. From tzuchi.us
The Tzu Chi Foundation marks its one-year anniversary. From tzuchi.us

Tzu Chi USA is also coordinating funds for those affected by the Woolsey Fire in Southern California (see below). The Woolsey Fire also started on 8 November and led to three deaths before being contained on 21 November. 

See more

Apply to Receive Emergency Financial Aid – For Northern California Camp Fire (Tzu Chi USA)
Apply to Receive Emergency Financial Aid – For Southern California Wildfire (Tzu Chi USA)
Camp Fire Incident Information (State of California)
Insured losses from Camp and Woolsey wildfires estimated at $9-13 billion: RMS (Reuters)
Buddhist Humanitarian Group Offers Cash Aid for those Displaced (Action News Now)
PG&E power lines may have sparked deadly Camp Fire, according to radio transmissions (The Mercury News)
See how a warmer world primed California for large fires (National Geographic)

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