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Churches respond as death toll from California wild fires hits 80, with 993 people missing

Posted on: November 19, 2018 3:47 PM
Melted metal from a car abandoned in Paradise, California, as the Camp Fire wildfire continues to take hold.
Photo Credit: Stephen Lam / Reuters
Related Categories: disaster, fire, Los Angeles, Northern California, USA

Officials say that almost 1,000 people are still missing as the death toll from a wildfire in northern California – dubbed the Camp Fire – hits 77. Meanwhile, Episcopalians in the US west-coast State say that they are gathering strength and resilience through “an outpouring of love and concern from across the Episcopal Church”. Yesterday (Sunday), officials said that the Camp Fire was 65 per cent contained after spreading across 150,000 acres. Elsewhere in California, the Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles was said to be 91 per cent contained after spreading across 96,000 acres. Three people were killed in that fire.

Amongst the buildings destroyed in the blazes – the deadliest in California’s history – was the home of the Revd Ann Sullivan, of St Nicholas’ Church in Paradise. The Church itself is said to be “relatively untouched”; and Sullivan was making plans to retrieve computers and sacred items from the building.

“The parish administrator and I will have office space at St John’s Church in Chico” as recovery efforts continue, Sullivan told the Episcopal News Service. She was also trying to connect displaced parishioners with St John’s members who had opened their homes to fire victims.

“Everyone I know who lived in Paradise lost their home,” Sullivan said.

St John’s, some 14 miles away in Chico, has become a hub for recovery activity and is ready to shelter the displaced, if necessary, according to its Rector, Richard Yale, who expressed amazement that St Nicholas’ Church sustained only superficial damage. “It was right there, in the heart of what was burning, and it’s still here”, he said. for the rest of the city of 26,000: “Paradise is gone. There’s no infrastructure left.

“Most lost their homes. Those who didn’t lose their homes now have homes in an uninhabitable city, so there are all levels of needs here, pastoral needs, financial needs, ongoing needs.”

Episcopal Relief & Development Partners in Response and Resilience team is partnering with the dioceses of Los Angeles and Northern California to provide emergency support.

“Assessment is ongoing as the fires are not fully contained yet,” Lura Steele, program officer for the US Disaster Program at Episcopal Relief & Development, said in a statement on the agency’s website. “We will continue to work with our local partners to respond to the needs of those affected,” she said.

  • Additional reporting by Pat McCaughan for the Episcopal News Service. Click here to read their fuller report.