The Church Being the Church as Fires Rage in California

ChurchLeaders | 11/14/2018 | Staff
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As stories of devastation continue emerging from California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire, so do stories of generosity and outreach. Churches and Christians are stepping up to provide shelter, food, and medical care while first responders battle flames throughout the state.

In Northern California’s Butte County, the Camp Fire that began November 8 has burned 135,000 acres, killed at least 48 people, and destroyed nearly 9,000 structures. Southern California’s Woolsey Fire, which began last week near Malibu, has burned 97,000 acres, killing at least two, destroying 435 structures, and displacing 200,000 people.

People - Northern - California - Citizens - Town

More than 100 people in Northern California are still missing, mostly senior citizens from the town of Paradise, which was nearly leveled. Spotty cell phone coverage is hindering efforts to locate survivors. Many evacuees had little notice, and some died in vehicles trying to outrace the flames.

After the Camp Fire damaged Feather River Hospital in Paradise, volunteers gathered to provide round-the-clock medical care at East Ave Nazarene Church in Chico. As soon as Pastor Ron Zimmer posted on Facebook that the church would open its doors, “volunteers rolled in,” he says. Many patients receiving care there are elderly or have chronic conditions. Earlier this week, about 200 displaced people were staying at the church. “This is what we’re supposed to be doing,” Zimmer says.

Church - Members - Fire - Zones - Meals

Church members throughout the fire zones are providing meals for victims. “There are an awful lot of homeless people right now,” says the Rev. Dave Rieck of First United Methodist Church of Willows. Rieck, who doesn’t know if his home was spared, says, “People desperately need some kind of answer.”

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