Disasters have to ability to unite a threatened community and reveal the best sides of people. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: A chaotic situation exposes those who would use a community's vulnerability to their advantage.
According to the Santa Barbara Firefighters Alliance (SBFA), residents have been receiving calls during the Jesusita Fire ordeal from individuals claiming to represent an unnamed firefighter support organization. The phone scammers, who are not associated with any official or licensed fundraising association, have allegedly solicited a number of residents, requesting money on behalf of firefighting efforts. Thus far, there haven't been any reports of any successful dupes, and the police department (because of their understandable preoccupation with the current fire) has yet to launch an investigation.
According to spokeswoman Erinn Lynch, the SBFA wants to make it clear to the public that it has not, and will not, be soliciting donations through phone calls or engaging in any kind of phone banking activity. Such calls are complete falsities and should be treated as such, said Lynch. If people would like to donate to area firefighting efforts, Lynch reported, they can do so through the Alliance's recently updated website or during any of the its fundraising events.
Since 2004, the SBFA has raised more than $1 million which has helped purchase safety equipment that fire officials identified as critical to their training, firefighting, and rescue efforts. Recent purchases include night vision goggles (which are essential to helicopter pilots during night water drops), handheld GPS systems, and state-of-the-art weather monitors.