FRESNO—Three California Southern Baptist Disaster Relief feeding teams were called up Monday, Oct. 22 in response to wildfires throughout Southern California, from Santa Barbara to San Diego.
Don Hargis, California Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief coordinator, said two of the Convention’s mobile units were being deployed to the San Diego vicinity while a “fixed kitchen” was being set up in Newhall in north Los Angeles County.
Hargis said the San Diego situation is the “most in need at this point” with as many as 250,000 people having been evacuated from their homes. Dan Cookson, a CSBC missionary who lives in San Diego, said as much as 100 square miles in the north and east of the county have been evacuated.
Hargis said the two field kitchens would be stationed at Bethel Baptist Church in Escondido and First Baptist Church of Mira Mesa in San Diego. He noted volunteers staffing each unit are expected to prepare as many as 10,000 meals daily for evacuees and police, fire and volunteer workers. Hargis said the field kitchens would be used to prepare meals beginning with dinner Tuesday, Oct. 23.
The fixed kitchen at First Baptist Church in Newhall will prepare as many as 700 meals daily, according to Hargis.
Also activated is one of the CSBC shower units which will be deployed at the Escondido church. Hargis reported the unit has “six private showers” and can accommodate as many as 600 persons daily.
Cookson said he and his family were evacuated from their home at 5 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 22 and spent the majority of the day between the office of Vision San Diego, home to the North American Mission Board’s Strategic Focus City workers, and First Baptist of Mira Mesa. He reported 30 homes in his neighborhood burned “this morning. I don’t think ours did, but we haven’t been back to check,” Cookson said. “Typically those that were in the most danger are those with shake (wood shingle) roofs.
He noted his home has a tile roof, but said, “I don’t know where we’ll spend the night, although we have had multiple offers.”
Cookson said “sketchy” amounts of news were available throughout the area. However, he reported hearing all five American Red Cross shelters were full and that the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Qualcomm Stadium, home to the San Diego Chargers, had been opened.
Cookson said he was only positive of one Southern Baptist church, First Baptist in Poway, where flames had been close.
“This is an opportunity for believers and churches to be a witness in time of crisis,” Cookson said. “This is a time for the church to be a calming influence and witness to the hope we have in Christ Jesus.”
Hargis echoed Cookson’s statement saying, “This is an opportunity for California Southern Baptists to show the love of Christ in action. We serve Him by serving others in need.”
Hargis asked California Southern Baptists to pray that Disaster Relief vehicles and volunteers would arrive safely and that all involved would be protected while in the fire area.
All trained Disaster Relief volunteers interested in serving should contact Renee McKinley by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Hargis said donations for Disaster Relief efforts are needed. Those wishing to donate can do so online here
or can send a check to CSBC, Disaster Relief, 678 E Shaw Ave, Fresno 93710. Hargis noted 100 percent of the funds received will be used for the disaster.
He noted it cost $80,000 in 2003 to clean 400 homes destroyed by wildfires. Both Hargis and Cookson agreed this fire could be worse than the 2003 fires which destroyed 3,000 homes.
Hargis also said Disaster Relief teams are in need of donated or loaned heavy-duty equipment to clean homes after the disaster. He specifically said front-end skid loaders and excavators are needed.