California Wildfire Response Begins
NEW YORK, Nov. 20. 2008—With many of the fires in southern California contained, the California-Pacific Annual Conference in partnership with the United Methodist Committee on Relief, are determining the next steps to respond to this latest disaster.
The conference received an emergency grant from UMCOR to assist with the first steps in disaster recovery and will provide additional assistance as needed to the conference, be it personnel, consultation and training, or financial.
Damage Assessments Begin
Larry Hygh, conference communications director, reports in the weekly "Cal-Pac Update," that no churches or parsonages in the Santa Barbara or Santa Ana districts were damaged by the fires. However, families from San Fernando First UMC, Northridge UMC and North Hollywood UMCs, have suffered losses.
"People are only now beginning to go back to see what has happened to their homes," explained Thomas Hill, disaster response coordinator for the conference. "We are monitoring the situation closely."
"We are staying in close contact with the conference," added Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR executive for domestic disaster response. "We will likely focus on families that live in mobile homes and day laborers. UMCOR's strives to focus on helping the most vulnerable populations in a disaster situation."
Churches Respond During Emergency
The first fire in the Los Angeles area began November 13. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the "Tea Fire" in Montecito, about 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles, burned nearly 2000 acres and destroyed 210 houses. The "Triangle Complex Fire", which began November 15, burned some 29,000 acres and damaged or destroyed 125 houses.
At the height of the emergency, Brea UMC was used as a staging area for firefighters. Members of Anaheim UMC assisted at a shelter set up next door at Katella High School. Mark Ulrickson, Santa Ana district superintendent, spent time at the shelter listening to evacuees. Light Of The Canyon UMC held an evening prayer service for the community on Tuesday evening, November 18.