From Bishop Mark, 7/31/18
Traveled to Redding, CA to meet with Pr. Bob Swartz and leaders of St. James Lutheran Church as the Carr Fire continues to rage and bring much destruction. Now at 27% containment, it has burned over 100,000 acres and destroyed over 1,000 homes and other structures, as well as taking 8 lives. I attended a briefing led by CalFire where residents who have lost homes and been evacuated were given updates. As you can imagine, there were lots of raw emotions expressed and much sadness shared about the losses people have suffered. There was also much appreciation given to all the first responders who are risking their lives to stop this fire. Many local police and fire personnel have lost their homes even as they have been on the line to protect others.
St. James has opened its doors to provide respite, child care, A/C, food and water and internet connections for all in need and is hosting All Saints Episcopal, which is located in a mandatory evacuation area. Fires are also burning near Yosemite and in Lake County. Prayers and donations to Lutheran Social Services and Lutheran Disaster Response will make a difference!
We have been in direct communication in the last 48 hours with the pastors and leaders of congregations in the fire areas in our synod. Here is the latest information we have about the fires that continue to burn in northern California:
- Our churches near Yosemite (Mountain Lutheran in Groveland and Mariposa Lutheran in Mariposa) are undamaged. Some members have been evacuated, some have been allowed to return home. The situation remains uncertain with regard to when the fire will be fully contained.
- St. James Lutheran in Redding is undamaged. It is not in an evacuation area. They have cancelled their VBS program for the coming week. They will also be making space for All Saints Episcopal to worship, since All Saints is in a mandatory evacuation area. Many members have been evacuated, we are uncertain if any members of St. James have lost their homes. One third of the residents of Redding have been evacuated, and over 500 structures have been destroyed.