California’s Camp Fire devastation forced race cancellations and inspired one brand in particular to donate money and supplies to relief efforts.

After The Fire

The statistics surrounding the Camp Fire in Northern California are startling. The devastation is worse than the state’s six other worst wildfires combined.

USA Today reported that “the fire has also killed nearly three times as many people as the Griffith Park Fire—a record that stood for 85 years. And with 870 residents of Paradise and the surrounding area still missing, that total will likely rise.”

As the toll from the fire worsened, so did the air quality in the surrounding areas. And on November 13, The North Face announced that it was canceling The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships, originally scheduled for Saturday, November 17.

“We started to see the air quality quickly decline about a week before the event was scheduled to take place, which gave us a time to not only monitor conditions, but work with local weather, environmental and health officials to determine the probability of the poor air quality persisting and ultimately how it would affect our participants, volunteers and spectators,” said Maeve Sloane, global sports marketing manager at The North Face. “The challenge was making a decision that allowed participants enough time to cancel any flights or accommodations they had made without being penalized, without calling it too early and having the air quality clear up significantly by race day.

“We ended up making the decision four days before the race was scheduled to take place,” Sloane said. “At that point we knew with certainty that not only was the air quality expected to not improve, but that even if it did, the fire was far from being contained and should wind shift again, we would have been putting participants and volunteers at risk.”

Running website IRunFar.com reported that in more than nine years of covering races live, this was the first time a race has been fully canceled.

Though understandably disappointed, The North Face utilized the race cancellation as a chance to give back this holiday season. It donated the entire cash purse prize of $30,000 to the Camp Fire Evacuation Relief Fund being facilitated by the North Valley Community Foundation to assist with fire relief efforts.

Their efforts didn’t stop there. The North Face donated just under $125,000 of new product toward the 150,000 displaced families in Butte County. Lastly, food and snacks (including 4,000 bagels, 3,000 bananas and oranges and 1,600 loaves of bread) from the event were sent to relief camps and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, which is working to provide meals to first responders and fire victims.

“Considering the devastating circumstances the victims of the Camp Fire were facing, it was a very easy decision to redirect race resources to support relief efforts,” Sloane said.

When making the decision to cancel the race, considering the safety of the entrants was the first priority for the race team. The air quality in affected areas became among the worst in the world, with pollutants from the fire heavily apparent in the atmosphere.

Though a disappointing decision, it was a necessary one.

“We got an overwhelmingly positive and supportive response from participants both over email and social media,” Sloane said. “Participants expressed a lot of relief about not running in the poor conditions and also a ton of appreciation for The North Face taking extra steps to redirect our resources to support the Camp Fire relief efforts.”

Packet pick-ups continued as scheduled but were instead used for fire relief drop-offs, and 15 percent of registered runners took the time to pick up their packets and make donations or drop off supplies. Additionally, entrants will be allowed to defer their entry to one of any five ECS race locations in 2019 and will be given a second discounted entry for themselves or a friend to participate in a 2019 race.

“I’m really proud that our internal teams responded with an incredible amount of heart, focus and commitment to ensuring that the decisions and actions we were taking were as efficient, well-communicated and thoughtful as possible,” Sloane said.