Santa Rosa, Calif., October 12, 2017
Wildfires continue to spread quickly throughout northern California’s wine country. Latest reports say 23 people have already been killed, and another 285 are missing. 170,000 acres have been consumed, with 3,500 structures thus far destroyed. More than 20,000 people have been ordered to evacuate, including the city of Calistoga, and parts of Geyserville. At least 8,000 firefighters from California and other western states are bravely and tirelessly working to contain the fires.
In this dire situation, Orthodox hierarchs and dioceses are calling for prayers and arranging for material help to be brought to the suffering.
Archbishop Benjamin, the OCA hierarch of the Diocese of the West writes, “I ask you all to keep the people of the Sonoma and Napa valleys in your prayers. As I write this the situation changes hourly. But I can report there have been no casualties so far.” Nuns from the Our Lady of Kazan Skete in Santa Rosa and Holy Assumption Monastery in Calistoga have been evacuated. One family from the St. Seraphim of Sarov parish in Santa Rosa has lost its home, but, thankfully, no one has been harmed.
Sts. Peter and Paul Church (ROCOR) in Santa Rosa has teamed up with Russian American Community Services to supply basic needs to the five parish families who have lost everything, and to the displaced who are being received by the church. Again, thankfully no one has been hurt.
Parish priest Archpriest Alexander Krassovsky writes,
The firestorm which hit Santa Rosa and its environs over the last several days is unprecedented in the history of our parish but, by the Grace of God, we have verified that all of our parishioners are safe and unharmed. Glory be to God! Unfortunately, five families in our parish have lost their homes. Our immediate concern here at Sts. Peter & Paul is to provide financial assistance to these families for basic needs, such as food, new clothing and other very basic necessities. Further, we are working on securing immediate, temporary housing back here in our area for these families, so that they may get their children back to school, themselves to work and to have a safe temporary home to begin the arduous process of dealing with insurance companies, federal aid agencies and so forth. Any financial assistance you can render can be sent through RACS http://racssf.org/index.php/donate – to whom we are already very grateful, along with our Russian Center – or directly to our parish at: Sts. Peter & Paul R.O. Church, PO Box 8277, Santa Rosa, CA 95407. Please note on your check “Fire Relief Fund.” Thank you and may God bless you all for your support and your prayers.
Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America has been in contact with Fr. George Baalbaki of St. Nicholas parish in San Francisco, who reports that some faithful in the area have been evacuated and some have suffered property damage, but none have been harmed.
Met. Joseph writes,
We know that our Lord commanded a pillar of fire to protect his people and spoke to Moses from a bush that was burning but not consumed. I ask all of our faithful people to fervently beseech the very same Lord to extend his right hand from His holy dwelling place on high and speedily quench these fires through His divine might. On behalf of all of my brother hierarchs, our clergy, and laity, I offer our prayers and support to those who are being impacted. We will be with you.
Met. Gerasimos of San Francisco of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America writes,
Our heartfelt and fervent prayers are with all those who are affected by the fire. Words cannot adequately convey our love and support for those mourning the loss of their homes, their possessions, and especially their loved ones, whose lives tragically ended as these fires consumed homes and land. May God grant strength and courage to all those who are risking their lives to protect others and watch over them with His Mighty Hand. We also pray that He may calm the winds, bring the fires under control, and grant comfort to all those who have been displaced during this tragedy.
One parishioner from Sts. Constantine and Helen Church in Vallejo has lost his home and all possessions, and families from this parish and the Nativity of Christ in Novato have been evacuated.
The Metropolis of San Francisco is currently compiling a list of parishioners in northern California who can provide food and shelter to displaced families. To be placed on the list, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address, phone number, and the number of people you can accommodate.