When the Camp Fire swept through Paradise, California, and the surrounding area this past November, including the communities of Magalia and Concow, it became the most deadly, costly wild fire in the state’s history. During the conflagration, which raged from Nov. 8 through Nov. 25, 2019, in the state’s Butte County, many lives were lost and countless structures destroyed. The ongoing impact in Paradise and surrounding area is still being counted.
When the Northern California Conference (NCC) set up a special help fund to respond to this devastating tragedy, hundreds of members in the Pacific Northwest joined others from around the country to donate toward church-organized relief efforts.
The six local conferences throughout the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) eagerly mobilized their members for this critical need. As of Dec. 31, 2018, more than $481,000 in donations were collected — most of them directed toward relief efforts for Paradise victims, with a smaller portion for the wider service needs through Adventist Community Services. The NPUC has remitted the Paradise fire funds to NCC.
Northwest members have historically been generous donors toward world mission projects. The response to this crisis, closer to home, was perhaps heightened by many personal connections. Paradise was a desired destination for many Adventist retirees who had Northwest roots. The local Adventist church, academy, and grade school were impacted by the fire, affecting all the members and students.
Paradise was also the location for Feather River Hospital, an Adventist Health institution. NPUC members had family and friends who worked there, who were part of the heroic efforts to evacuate patients during the height of the fire. The stories of dramatic, selfless rescues touched heartstrings across the Northwest. And NPUC members responded.
Mark Remboldt, NPUC vice president for finance, helped to coordinate the donation efforts along with local conference treasurers. He shared words of gratitude for the response: “Thank you to our Northwest members for your willingness to help displaced families within Butte County, California. Your donations have helped give members who lost their homes some funds to get back on their feet. Your help has given some hope. Thank you for all you have done for our church members, friends and for our kids. You are a part of their lives too.”
The long-term effects of this fire on those who have lost homes, jobs, or loved ones have yet to be measured. Financial donations provide an obvious boost, but church members must remain mindful of the ongoing needs of those who continue to live with the burdens of this traumatic event.
Let us be in prayer for them and ever vigilant to understand and respond in tangible ways during the days ahead.
— Steve Vistaunet is North Pacific Union Conference assistant to the president for communication and Gleaner editor; this article was originally published online by the North Pacific Union Gleaner and is republished here with permission.