Erika Crooks remembers the day well. On Memorial Day weekend four years ago, she, her husband and their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter went to a local Target near their home in Elk Grove, Calif., to purchase barbecuing supplies. When they returned, their home was engulfed in flames.
“It was like an out-of-body experience,” Crooks, 33, told Fox News. “You see fires on TV and are desensitized to them. But you never know when it's going to be your home.”
It was a last-minute decision that saved Crooks and her family from the flames; she and her husband decided to make the trip to Target a family outing, opposed to one of them staying home with their young daughter, she said.
“It was like an out-of-body experience."
Crooks’ family, who had only been living in the house for five months, watched their home burn for roughly seven hours before the fire was contained. The fire marshal on duty that day told Crooks that it was an exterior fire, most likely sparked by something flammable thrown into a trashcan near their home.
“I was shocked, frightened and saddened,” she said. “I wanted to run in and grab pictures and my daughter’s favorite blanket -- material things that you take for granted.”
Crooks’ family lost a lot that day. But thanks to a $100 gift card from the California Fire Foundation’s SAVE program, they were able to buy food and pajamas for their daughter that night.
The foundation works with local fire agencies to provide immediate, on-site assistance to families that have suffered a residential loss of at least 25 percent, according to its website.
It also provided assistance to those who were impacted by the wildfires in Southern California, which scorched hundreds of thousands of acres, destroyed more than 1,000 structures and forced more than 200,000 people to evacuate at the height of the fires.
The foundation gave roughly 500 gift cards to Southern Californians who were affected by the wildfires, Lou Paulson, chairman of the California Fire Foundation, told Fox News.
Here's how the wildfire victims have been helped so far.
President Trump approves California's disaster declaration
On Jan. 2, President Trump declared that a "major disaster exists in the state of California." He also ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by wildfires, mainly in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties where the Thomas Fire has hit the hardest.
Certain non-profit organizations were also eligible to receive funds, according to a statement from the White House.
Trump previously declared a state of emergency in California on Dec. 8, which allowed federal assistance to supplement the state and local response to the fires. His declaration was in response to a letter from California Gov. Jerry Brown. Los Angeles, Ventura, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Riverside counties will receive federal assistance.
More specifically, “FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency,” the emergency management agency said in a statement. Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, was also provided at 75 percent federal funding.
United Way of Ventura County
In a partnership with the American Red Cross of Ventura County and the Ventura County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services, the United Way of Ventura County started the Thomas Fire Fund to assist community relief efforts in the county, which was primarily been impacted by the Thomas Fire. This wildfire -- which is now the largest in the state's history -- has scorched more than 281,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 structures.
The Salvation Army Ventura Corps accepted food, water and money donations to help those who were impacted by the wildfires, especially those who were evacuated to the Ventura County Fairgrounds.
Up until Dec. 9, the organization served a combined total of 4,619 meals to evacuees at the fairgrounds and at Nordhoff High School in Ojai, Calif., which also served as a temporary evacuation center.
The Red Cross
Roughly 615 people who were forced to leave their homes due to the wildfires sought refuge at the 13 Red Cross community shelters in Southern California.
Go Fund Me
Many individuals started fundraising campaigns on Go Fund Me in light of the wildfires.
California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund
The California Community Foundation's Wildfire Relief Fund provides immediate and long-term wildfire recovery efforts. Since 2003, the fund has raised $3.5 million to support relief and recovery efforts.
More specifically, the fund supports those who have suffered long-term mental or health issues as a result of wildfires, helps to rebuild homes and provides financial assistance to victims, among other things.
L.A. Kitchen provided meals to firefighters and displaced wildfire victims.
Humane Society of Ventura County
The Humane Society of Ventura County housed more than 100 animals due to the wildfires. At the time, they were in need of basic animal supplies such as: cat food, alfalfa, hay, water troughs, hoses, flashlights and rabbit food.