Fires Update, Oct. 20

The scene in the parking lot of Solano Community College,
where many evacuees escaped the raging Atlas Fire.
Photograph by the Rev. Carren Sheldon.

A prayer from Bishop Barry for the diocese

Most Gracious God: 
Hear our prayer for all whose lives are impacted by this crisis. 
Shield and deliver all emergency responders; 
 give wisdom and guide those in authority; 
watch over all who have been forced to evacuate, 
and all who wait with uncertainty. 
Comfort those who mourn great loss. 
Help those who wish to help 
 to be patient and effective in compassion. 
Bless us all, and help us trust in you. 
 In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

The rain has helped in fighting the fires, but many are still not 100% contained. The Tubbs Fire alone has  broken the record as the most destructive wildfire in California's history.

Since the start of the October Fire Siege late Sunday, Oct. 8, CalFire has  responded to 250 new wildfires. At the peak of the wildfires, 21 major  wildfires burned more than 245,000 acres, and 11,000 firefighters battled the  destructive fires that at one time forced 100,000 to evacuate, destroyed an  estimated 7,700 structures and took the lives of 42 people.
Today we continue our focus some of the smaller communities that have been impacted by the October fires. 

Carren Sheldon, a priest of the Diocese of Northern California, wrote this essay a week ago while serving as a volunteer. Her family had to evacuate from its home in Suisun Valley.  

"When you think of an evacuation shelter, you might imagine a room full of cots, and you would find that at Solano Community College today, though more evacuees have taken shelter in the parking lot than inside . They've come with small pop-up trailers, Class A motorhomes, and 
Inside the shelter at Solano Community College
everything  in between. They're parked in four large parking lots, and along the service road beside the football field. They've brought along the family cars, some also have collector's cars, trucks and horse trailers. Many campers have pets with them. It's hard to count the number of evacuees, but there are at least 40 campers and RVs, and several hundred cars.

Many thousands more of Solano County's evacuees from Green Valley, Suisun Valley, and Gordon Valley have found shelter in the homes of friends and family.

The fire which made headlines in Napa on Monday has spread. The evacuation zone expanded eastward into Solano County on Monday. By Tuesday, flames crested the Twin Sisters mountain ridge, about 9 miles southeast of the fire's Atlas Peak origin point. The fire hasn't moved very much since then, but it hasn't been contained either. So evacuees continue to wait.
Today, is their fifth day away from home. The air is smoky, and dry. They hunger to know about the fire, and when they can go home. Every day, they are told about the forecast for high winds whipping up the flames. They see news of devastation in Napa and Sonoma Counties, and they know they may be next.
I come to this shelter wearing the clerical collar. It's a uniform as recognizable as the ones worn by firefighters and police officers, though my function is not as well defined. I do whatever needs doing: folding and organizing a mountain of donated clothes, rearranging furniture to open up floor space, playing board games with bored children whose schools are closed because of the fire. Those projects always seem to lead to conversations: people need to tell their stories, they want to ask why this is happening, and why it's happening to them. That's the real mission of serving these evacuees. They are on the same mission as every church I have ever served: waiting together, living into the uncertainty of a transformation in progress."
Rev. Carren added this update: " The evacuees have re-populated the evacuated areas of Solano County. Most went home last Sunday.  
I believe that three houses were lost, in addition to a number of out-buildings, thousands of acres of grass, and at least one vineyard (Dan Capp, Wooden Valley Road)."

From Emma Green, junior warden and Community Meals organizer at Epiphany, Vacaville: " The church, working through its Community Meals Program, continues to provide meals and supplies to local evacuation centers including centers for disabled evacuees and large animal evacuees. 

"As a community center, Epiphany's kitchen is used for food preparation and assembly for distribution by its participating churches, local caterers and volunteers. Their large network of food, health services, and church participants mobilized very quickly, especially during the first critical hours of need."

Please keep  Christ the King, Quincy, parishioner Dan Patterson in your prayers. He, along with many other first responders, have been hard at work fighting the wildfires in our area. Complementing the direct firefighting efforts, the Rev. Matt Warren has been working with volunteers in the Diocese and TEC to provide assistance for those effected by the fires within California. "Our offering for the month of October will be forwarded to the Bishop's Discretionary Fund to assist in those efforts."

CalFire added this warning today: "Although the firefighters appreciate the outpouring of support, please cease the placement of metallic/mylar balloons along your fence and property. If the balloons make contact to the overhead power lines, there is a high potential for fires. This could also affect the electric service to an entire neighborhood, as well as property damage and serious personal injury. And never fly drones over burned or burning areas."

Electrical safety tips after a wildfire are available here.
T he  New York Times has an excellent story on the hazards  homeowners face if they sift through the rubble

FEMA grants   are available are available for residents who have lost a house or business in the following counties: Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sonoma and Yuba. They can apply online at  or by phone at 800-621-3362, or (TTY) 800-462-7585. The phone numbers are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, FEMA said.  Applicants will be asked to provide identification and contact information, a description of the damage and insurance information. 

Free therapy at Incarnation this Saturday: The Redwood Empire Chapter of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists is hosting free drop-in counseling at Incarnation, Santa Rosa, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for anyone who needs to talk about the recent fires. Therapeutic arts & crafts and games for children, and refreshments will be available. For more information on the effects of trauma on children, or adults, please see RECAMFT's  resource page

Monetary donations are the very best way to support the victims of the fires:
  • Episcopal Relief & Development, through the U.S. Disaster Fund. 
  • Episcopal Diocese of Northern California bishop's discretionary fund through the diocese's website. The bishop has begun disbursing funds; please contact your clergy person with any needs involving fire relief and we will respond promptly. 
  • Incarnation, Santa Rosa, through its fire-relief fund.
For those of you who live in Sacramento, Yolo or Placer Counties, the Sacramento Office of Emergency Services conducted a test of the emergency notification system on the morning of Oct. 19. If you were not notified, you can register to get emergency alerts by email, text, cell phone or landline here.
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