Amid raging West Coast wildfires, a flurry of communication efforts

As historically devastating blazes destroy life and property in California, government officials and others are spreading warnings, information and messages of comfort.

California wildfire communication

The deadliest California fire in 85 years is inciting new conversations for communicators trying to reach scared and vulnerable audiences.

The Camp Fire has destroyed more than 6,000 homes and burned 111,000 acres, making it the most destructive fire in state history. As rescue workers try to help displaced people and Californians come to terms with yet another disaster, communicators have been working hard to deliver their messages.

Many organizations use online newsrooms to share updates and post news releases for easy access. The City of Malibu turned to its newsroom to talk directly to residents about the massive blaze threatening that area.

The mayor addressed constituents in a post, which read in part:

As we enter into the fourth full day of the Woolsey Fire, the entire City of Malibu still remains under mandatory evacuation. We urge those who have not yet evacuated to get out of the City now. We know this is an extremely stressful time, and our primary concern is for your safety. Be vigilant and heed the direction of our public safety officials, which will help them do their work to protect your homes.

Other updates have included road closures, advisories and evacuation center locations.

Social media outreach

On Twitter, people have shared images of the damage. Government accounts are offering resources for people looking for missing relatives and friends.

Some offer direct assistance:

Others wait for answers:

Some are sharing fundraising campaigns to aid rebuilding efforts:

Amid unified efforts, divisive talk

Unfortunately, the losses of life, property and nature were fuel—for some—for political posturing.

President Donald Trump, who often uses his Twitter account to speak directly to his followers, fanned the flames when talking about the fire’s impact. He called on people in the fire’s path to evacuate and blamed the tragedy on poor forest management.

When Trump threatened on Twitter to revoke federal funding, California’s governor responded.

ABC reported:

On Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown’s office fired back, calling the president’s tweet “inane and uninformed.”

“Our focus is on the Californians impacted by these fires and the first responders and firefighters working around the clock to save lives and property — not on the president’s inane and uninformed tweets,” Evan Westrup, the governor’s press secretary, told ABC News.

The governor linked the fire to the ravages of climate change.

The LA Times reported:

“This is not the new normal, this is the new abnormal. And this new abnormal will continue certainly in the next 10 to 15 to 20 years. Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they’re going to intensify,” Brown said. “We have a real challenge here threatening our whole way of life, so we’ve got to pull together.”

“We’re dealing with existential conditions that, once they take off, the certain amount of dryness in the vegetation and the soil and the air, then the winds get up 50, 60 miles an hour, this is what happens,” Brown said. “We’re in a new abnormal. Things like this will be a part of our future.”

Firefighters were more forceful in a rebuke of Trump’s messages.

CNN wrote:

“His comments are reckless and insulting to the firefighters and people being affected,” said Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

The president of the California Professional Firefighters said the message is an attack on some of the people fighting the devastating fires.

“The President’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines,” Brian K. Rice said.

“In my view, this shameful attack on California is an attack on all our courageous men and women on the front lines.”

How are you talking about the deadly California fires, Ragan/PR Daily readers?

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