September 10, 2015
The Rough Fire located in central California has consumed over 103,000 acres. Residents in many communities along its path have been evacuated, included staff at Saint Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center and the adjacent Monastery of the Theotokos the Life Giving Spring. The fire is approximately four miles away from the Ranch and Monastery facilities, located in Dunlap, California, and the air quality is extremely poor and is a health hazard for residents.
Abbess Markella and 18 sisters from the Monastery are graciously being provided with accommodations from the Sisters of Nazareth from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, and Monastery Chaplain Rev. Father John Angelis is staying in the home of parishioners from Saint George in Fresno. Three sisters remain at the Monastery, and Saint Nicholas Ranch Director Michael Pappas is also still on the Ranch property. At the present time, the evacuation is strongly advised but not required. Should a mandatory evacuation be issued, they will immediately leave and seek safety in Fresno. In the attached picture you can see the large cloud of smoke in the sky approaching the historic barn at Saint Nicholas Ranch, which gives a clearer indication of the proximity of this fire.
“We pray for the safekeeping of our beloved Monastery and Saint Nicholas Ranch, and for all those in the area. We will remain vigilant in our supplications to the Lord that the fires may be contained and not cause any further destruction,” stated His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco. “We are also grateful for the valiant efforts of the firefighters and pray for their strength to endure this battle, so they may return to their homes and loved ones unharmed.”
Saint Nicholas Ranch is presently providing housing for 22 firefighters from Cal Fire who are in need of accommodations during their rest periods from active fire duty. The Rough Fire was started by a lightning strike in July 2015 and has been growing in intensity. The extreme heat and drought in California have exacerbated conditions, making this fire hard to control.
The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco will provide further updates as additional information becomes available.