West coast WIldfires
More than 85 significant wildfires are ripping across the West Coast, causing unprecedented burning in Washington and Oregon and exacerbating what has already become California’s biggest wildfire season ever.
More than 360,000 acres have burned in Oregon, which has 35 active fires. In Washington, meanwhile, more than 330,000 acres have burned since Monday — more than double the state’s total from all of 2019.
The numbers on wildfire impacts change daily. The above quote is from September 10, 2020. In their Daily Briefing Report for September 16, 2020 FEMA reports 1,303,730 acres of forest burned in the states of WA & OR; 119,526 homes and structures threatened, 1,479 destroyed in Oregon and 1,041 in Washington. There are 19 known fatalities and over 250,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.
current Impacts of west coast wildfires
Wildfires threaten and destroy homes, businesses, community centers, forests and farms. Smoke covers the region making it unsafe to be outdoors. People are dislocated. Special needs and marginalized communities are especially hard hit. Everybody suffers to some degree.
Agencies such as the Red Cross are often the first to set up hubs where fire refugees and find aid. Faith Communities may open their doors or parking lots to help people evacuating their homes. Food banks and shelters are quickly overrun and need extra support. County Fairgrounds are enlisted to house livestock that might be lost to fire, if they can be moved. And then, how are they to be fed? A wide variety of needs quickly become apparent during natural disasters and local action and assistance is always the first response.
How can we help?
We are utility workers, foresters, farmers, fire fighters, first responders and families. Pray for and support those engaged in our community safety and well-being. We begin at home. Reach out to neighbors who may need you. Ask for, and graciously receive, help if you need it. Another day you will be able to extend your hand to another. Ask how people are doing and what they need. Stay informed.
Disaster Response begins with you, where you are, with those God has placed you with.
Thank you for your care.
Communities of Faith
Some have had to evacuate their church properties, for fire now as well as COVID-19. Others are able to work with the Red Cross to provide food, or do so on their own, or open their parking lot for fire refugees, maybe even their buildings. In disasters we share what we have and make available what we can. This takes conversation and creativity, especially in the midst of the coronovirus pandemic. We benefit from strong relationships with other congregations, ministries, and agencies. We don’t know where the need is, or who can help, if we are not connected. In disaster we find and celebrate mission with others.
Disaster Response values the passions and possibilities faith communities offer. You are the light on the hill for those in your community.
Care begins and ends locally.
In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregations are organized into broader communities called “synods.” Synod offices, staff and Councils exist to coordinate ministry with you in these difficult times. In addition to their usual work of call processes, consultation and visioning, Synod offices stand ready to coordinate your disaster response with that of other agencies and organizations such as Lutheran Community Services Northwest, state VOAD boards, Lutheran Disaster Response and much more.
As this disaster unfolds, Synods are anxious to hear about damage or loss you may be experiencing. They are available to consult on requests you may receive to open up your building, or needs you or your community may have. Many people are asking how and to whom they might make financial donations. Synods are able to help you with donations for local needs.
Lutheran Disaster Response looks to Synods to connect members and congregations to the boarder resources of the ELCA.
Lutheran Community Services Northwest
Lutheran Community Services Northwest is a help, healing, justice, social ministry Agency associate with the ELCA. On behalf of Lutherans and people of good will through the Pacific Northwest they work with families, children, prison parole programs, refugee resettlement, sexual abuse victims and much, much more. These unique communities of need feel the effects of natural disaster deeply and are often overlook by traditional disaster relief efforts. Please consider a financial donation to LCSNW for the amazing work they do in trying times.
Lutheran Social Service Agencies are for those others often overlook. Lutheran Community Services Northwest is a gift to all.
Lutheran Disaster Response
Lutheran Disaster Response-US deals with all the variety of major disasters citizens of our country experience. The ELCA also has an international ministry of outreach and care.
Currently Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) has a dedicated wildfires webpage offering worship resources and support. Behind the scenes, though, our national Lutheran Disaster Response ministry does so much more.
- LDR staff have been in constant communication with our Region 1 Disaster Preparedness Coordinator, Dave Brauer-Rieke, to help assess the needs and realities on the ground.
- LDR is already conduct consultations with key Oregon and Washington Synodical and Social Service Agency leadership, proactively offering their presence, partnership and resources.
- LDR offers training, connections and experience for disaster situations.
- Through local volunteers and Synod staff LDR is present with state VOAD communities so that we might offer what we can, when we can. Coordination is always key in disaster response.
- LDR offers immediate recovery grants and a long term recovery presence in situations just like ours – just as they have been present for the whole Church in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is how Lutherans respond to disaster. Lutherans respond through individuals, congregations, and community partners. Lutherans offer immediate aid, experience and the resources of the larger church. Relief and recovery efforts are coordinated through Synods and Social Service. We do what we are able and you are vital part of this work.
Donation and information links
It is important to prepare for emergency evacuations and have a “Go Bag” in your car or other easily accessible place. Be prepared for emergencies!