Burning since September 13, the King Fire has swept its way through El Dorado County, California, leaving 96,004 acres destroyed in its wake.
The local Seventh-day Adventist Church in Camino has teamed up with the American Red Cross to help those who are seeking shelter from the blaze. Approximately 2,800 people have been forced to evacuate their homes in what is being called the second most expensive fire the state has seen this year — incurring costs of up to $5 million a day.
Several years ago the Camino SDA Church underwent a screening process that allowed it to act as an official Red Cross location in the event an emergency struck in its area.
When the King Fire began to burn closer, a Red Cross team leader notified other Red Cross members to be on alert. As the threat became apparent, Red Cross contacted the Camino SDA Church.
On September 16 approximately 100 people spent the night in the church while their pets slept in crates outside.
The Red Cross also contacted El Dorado Adventist School to request access to its gymnasium, bathroom, and shower facilities. The school was on standby in case the Red Cross needed another location, but fortunately the facilities were not needed.
On September 23, the number of people sleeping at the church had dropped down to 50, but the number of people using the church as a place to eat remained around 100. The Red Cross has been bringing in prepackaged food by the truckload and Camino church members have continued to help where they can.
“We have had a number of people [church members] that have been volunteers in the kitchen and have been working with the people [who have been evacuated],” said Camino SDA Pastor Craig Klatt. “Our head deacon custodian has been key in facilitating the use of the property,” he continued. “My wife and I have been there every day to be sensitive to people’s needs during this time.”
In addition to being an evacuation site, Camino SDA Church has been named a location for official information briefings. Twice a day, community members have met in the church to hear the latest information about the King Fire.
According to an update on the Northern California Conference webpage, a local sheriff confided to Pastor Klatt that “meeting in the [Camino SDA] church has completely transformed the tone of the briefings. People are responding much more calmly to bad news.”
Pastor Klatt is thankful that the church could be involved in actively helping the community. “We’re just at the right place at the right time,” he said. “It’s been an incredible blessing to get acquainted with a specific population in a time when they’ve been feeling an incredible amount of stress in the prospect that they might lose everything.”
As of September 26, only one person is staying at the Camino SDA Church. It is believed that the church will be back to its regular duties by the end of the weekend.
Twelve single residences and 68 other structures have been destroyed by the fire.
Although several Camino SDA church members were evacuated, none of their homes have been destroyed.
Image: A community fire information meeting at the Camino SDA church.