Fire Updates From Our Diocese

Fire Updates From Our Diocese


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Lake County in Need - Valley Fire

from Deborah Smith, Senior Warden, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lakeport

St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lakeport is currently assisting evacuees from the Valley Fire and has four parishioners in their congregation who have lost their homes. Deborah Smith, Senior Warden at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lakeport, is working diligently with the Red Cross and has been at the local shelters non-stop. Admittedly, Lake County is one of the poorest counties in California, with lots of rural poverty. Because the evacuations came on Saturday, many people were away from home (running errands, etc.) and then could not get back home to retrieve any possessions. The evacuees literally have the clothes on their backs and nothing else.

St. John’s has also opened their thrift store to those in need. Today, a young couple came in with a baby who was dressed only in a diaper because they could not get home before the fire evacuation. The couple was looking for baby clothes, and they were able to find them at the church thrift store.

The loss of livestock has been huge, along with family pets who were trapped at home when the evacuation orders came and homeowners were away. In Lake County, Middletown has had a great deal of destruction. There was no water available to fight the fires in Middletown, presumably because of the drought. The high school was saved because they used the water from the swimming pool.

Light Shines in the Darkness in Sutter Creek - Butte Fire

from The Rev. Karen Siegfriedt, Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church in Sutter Creek

The Trinity Episcopal Church building is fine and our parishioners are faithful. Most of the parishioners have returned home but there is still an advisory in effect. Most of the fire in Amador County is contained, but the fire is still very active in the next county, Calaveras. The folks who live in Amador County that have returned home report that their homes are fine. A few missing animals and total loss of food due to the power being out are the main concerns, along with being uncertain about fire outbreaks. Two of our parishioners have not been allowed to go home and a few more are still away. At least one parishioner who lives off the grid in Calaveras has not checked in. The fire in Calaveras county continues to burn. It is still pretty smoky, but nothing like this weekend. We needed masks this morning, but not now.

The parish hall at Trinity is no longer needed for evacuees or power, etc. Those who were nearby and those who could, checked in on Sunday. The Rancheria and the Red Cross are doing an excellent job in providing supplies, food and shelter. Power has not been completely restored to Amador County, but more and more folks do have it.

It has been a stressful time for all. However, the outreach, generosity, service and good humor are extraordinary. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Thank you all for your prayers and your concern.


Ministry of Presence and a Quiet Space - Valley Fire

 from The Rev. Lucretia Jevene, Priest-in-Partnership, St. Brigid's Episcopal Church in Rio Vista

On Monday, September 14th I traveled to Calistoga and visited the evacuation center at the fairgrounds to see if there was anything I could do to help the evacuees. I met up with Deacon Susan Napoliello from St. Luke's Episcopal Church, a Catholic Priest who attends St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Calistoga and the local Presbyterian pastor.

What is amazing is how the disaster work of the Red Cross works in all areas. They have a medical team that also includes social workers and mental health workers. The largest building at the fairgrounds was divided up into different areas with one large area for children with coloring things, videos, toys, tables and floor space, with blankets and pillows. Another side is set up like a dormitory, with cots for those who need to be inside a building. About one third is devoted to the medical center.

There were many volunteers from Calistoga, and they are preparing fabulous food for these many people. As I was about to leave I heard that Sysco food services had called, asked for the menu for the week and said they would supply the food. And donations of water, clothes, blankets, sheets, even tents and sleeping bags, poured in from all over. The Red Cross was begging people not to bring any more in kind donations.

After the initial, and somewhat chaotic circumstances of Saturday night and Sunday morning, everything seemed to be running very smoothly and all kinds of help was available. Rows of tents and campers and cars are lined all over the grounds. There were two pet care Veterinarian vans set up and they were examining people's pets. Someone had brought a load of hay so the horses that were present would have food, and there were several in a small fenced in area in a corner of the grounds. The Red Cross has its own set of chaplains, so we were not needed in any formal sense but were given permission to just be there.

Susan spent quite a bit of time just walking around talking to people, and this morning came up with the idea of trying to set up a listening center. We finally settled on the idea of setting up a "Quiet Space" for conversation, mediation and prayer. We would try to have someone there during the day to be available to talk to people. Please see the photo at right of this rather simple set up. As I left this evening, there was a group coming in to do some chanting and drumming.

People gathered in the stadium for an official update, and the mayor of Calistoga, Chris Canning, welcomed everyone and introduced the other speakers. His comment was that it's not often a whole town comes to visit. And he received cheers from the crowd when he mentioned the food that was being served. The people speaking included congressman Mike Thompson who had been touring Lake County, and had been in touch with Washington and spoken with the White House this morning. He said the whole California delegation was working together to get as much federal help as they could. The state senator said the governor had declared Lake County a disaster area which means the National Guard can help and federal aid will be made available.

The Sheriff of Lake County spoke and said they were doing all they could to prevent looting and to make sure everyone's safety is assured. For the time being they are not letting anyone back into the area. Safety is the primary concern. PG&E is busy working to replace the poles as so many burned up or crashed and generally to restore power as quickly as possible.

The Fire Commander spoke and emphasized they are working on trying to contain the fire but that it is very difficult to build a line around so large an area. It was at that time only 25% contained. All agencies are working as hard as possible to get this thing under control and to make the area safe enough to return to.

My first impression is that people were calm and fairly good-natured, now that everyone has kind of settled in and the organization is functioning well. Most of them are friends or at least acquainted. It is a small town that has moved to these Fairgrounds. They are anxious to know the state of their property and when they can return. Some had to leave animals behind and are worried about them. I suspect that if this takes longer than a few days people might start to get testy. For those who then find out that their houses are gone, the hard times will really settle in.

Being a ministry of presence is what I believe we can do right now. This same presence might be needed later in Middletown as people return to a bleak reality. We can also pray for these people who are and will be suffering from the traumatic event. People are welcome to come and spend a few hours in the "Quiet Space," talking with passersby and with anyone who wants to sit down and really talk.

from The Rev. Lucretia Jevene, Priest-in-Partnership, St. Brigid's Episcopal Church in Rio Vista



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1 comment (Add your own)

1. Cathryn Keag wrote:
Thank you all for the update. We will try to back up Susan in her efforts.

Wed, September 16, 2015 @ 10:41 AM

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