Devastating wildfires covering more than 400 square miles in northern and southern California over the past few weeks have left scores of people dead, hundreds missing and thousands displaced.

Authorities announced that the fires are fully contained—including Camp Fire, the most deadly and destructive fire in the state’s history—but in the immediate aftermath, survivors are left dealing with pressing concerns around shelter, healthcare, insurance, employment and income, federal assistance, and immigration.

To help provide practical assistance for those affected, law firm Morrison & Foerster has compiled a resource guide around those topics. The Fall 2018 California Wildfires Helping Handbook: A Resource for Individuals, Families, and Small Businesses is available free here.

The 90-page handbook provides individuals and small businesses with information on a cross-section of subjects in an accessible format. The book focuses on Butte, Ventura, and Los Angeles Counties, where the president has issued a major disaster declaration, triggering certain assistance to individuals.

It deals with a wide range of critical topics including temporary housing, accessing federal financial assistance, insurance coverage, replacing destroyed documentation, dealing with creditors, avoiding financial scams and frauds, handling guardianship issues, unemployment benefits, locating pets, replacing clothes and necessities, and immigration issues for non-US citizens. It also provides contacts for insurance companies and government agencies, resources for additional information, and information about further services and legal services organizations.

Lawyers and staff across multiple offices at Morrison & Foerster worked on the book, which has also been distributed in print to affected areas.

The Fall 2018 California Wildfires Helping Handbook is the latest in an ongoing series of disaster recovery guides produced by Morrison & Foerster, beginning in the aftermath of 9/11. Handbooks were also issued in response to Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, and previous California wildfires. This is the third handbook related to California this year.

The Handbook is available online in English and a Spanish version is forthcoming. Organizations may request print copies in bulk by sending a request to The full handbook is accessible here.

The following topics are covered:

  • Housing – Temporary housing, housing payments, renters, replacement of possessions, demolition and cleanup, repair and rebuilding, purchase and sale of damaged property, and property taxes
  • Employment and related benefits – Getting paid, time off and the right to return, health benefits, other benefits, losing your job, unemployment benefits, finding work
  • Insurance – Understanding your insurance coverage, notifying your carrier and navigating the claims process, accessing resources and key contacts
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – Overview, eligibility and application questions, state supplemental grant program information
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) loan assistance – Overview, home and personal property loans, business physical disaster loans, economic injury disaster loans for small businesses
  • Business interruption – Contracts, real estate, tax relief, employment/treatment of employees
  • Personal finances and taxes – Dealing with creditors, banks and cash needs, other considerations, taxes
  • Government program benefit payments – Social security, unemployment, CalFresh, EBT cards, CalWorks, Veterans’ benefits
  • Immigration – Eligibility for relief, lost documentation, interaction with USCIS
  • Document and record replacement
  • Consumer tips and fraud prevention
  • Loss of life – General support and resources, property transfers, will and probate, guardianship of minors and incompetent adults, taxes for missing or deceased family members
  • Healthcare
  • Pets and animals
  • Lawyer referral services and legal aid
  • Disaster help centers
  • State/federal agency quick phone list
  • Additional resources