At press time some 8,000 firefighters continue to battle more than 20 blazes in southern California. Beginning last weekend, the fires charred an estimated 723 square miles, devastating residents in fire-threatened neighborhoods across southern California, from the Mexican border up to northern Los Angeles County. Nearly one million people have been evacuated and more than 1,600 structures have been destroyed, according to news reports.
On late Thursday, the Adventist Review learned that no Seventh-day Adventist Churches have been lost in fires thus far. However, Southeastern California Conference (SECC) vice president George King reports that 117 Adventist families have been evacuated and 22 of these families have lost their homes.
Between 20 and 25 Adventist congregations in San Diego and San Bernardino counties are affected by the fires, King said in a telephone interview. Five Adventist schools including Escondido Academy, Hemet Adventist Christian School, La Sierra Academy, Murrieta Springs Adventist Christian School, and San Diego Academy were closed due to smoke or flames.
Several Adventist churches have opened their doors to house church members and other community residents needing shelter. The Fallbrook Church in San Diego county is feeding fire fighters and the La Mesa church is feeding and housing 11 chaplains.
Some Adventist pastors and church members are volunteering at Red Cross shelters and many are donating blankets and other supplies to evacuation centers.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) has given SECC a grant of $50,000 to help meet the most pressing needs of survivors. ADRA workers are currently on the ground, assessing needs and preparing to provide emergency relief, including food and housing assistance.
King said conference leaders are inviting churches to take up a special offering on October 27 to help disaster victims. He noted that governmental agencies are doing a good job in assisting displaced persons.
"We want to thank ADRA, Adventist Community Services, and all the pastors and church members who have been a great assistance in the relief effort," King said. "We are making plans for the immediate and long-term needs of disaster victims."
Pacific Union Conference vice president Arnold Trujillo is inviting church members throughout North America and around the world to pray for the situation in California. "Pray for the millions of men, women, and children living in southern California. Pray for the firefighters," he says. "Pray for the leaders of government and volunteer agencies that are making decisions on how best to respond to this disaster. Pray for the nearly 1 million evacuees. Pray for the Adventist families that have been personally affected by this tragedy."
Update on California Wildfires
Southern California Conference (SCC) officials report that no Adventist families lost their homes in the wildfires in the greater Los Angeles area.
Approximately 20 wildfires blazed out of control last week throughout southern California. The threatened area ranged from as far north as Santa Barbara and reached to San Diego. The blazes destroyed 1,800 homes and 500,000 persons were evacuated. In the Southeast California Conference, which includes San Diego, San Bernardino, and Loma Linda, 117 Adventist families were evacuated and 22 lost their homes.
SCC officials note that several Adventists live in the Malibu area, close to some of the fires, but their homes were spared. Pastor Michael Brownfield, associate pastor at the Thousand Oaks Church, noted that a member in his congregation did loose a ranch in the San Diego area that had been in the family for years.
"We are thankful that lives, churches, and schools have been spared in our conference, and we want to help people in other areas who have suffered losses and are praying for the many people whose lives have been drastically affected by the fires," a conference press release states.
SCC churches, as well as other churches throughout North America, are collecting offerings to help those who have lost their homes the San Diego area. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency has given the Southeast California Conference an initial grant of $50,000 for long-term aid.