Chaplains Ministering to Californians Impacted by Horrific Wildfires

By   •   November 11, 2018

Chris and Nancy Brown embrace while searching through the remains of their home, leveled by the Camp Fire, in Paradise, California. As the fire approached, Nancy escaped from the home with her 2-year-old and three dogs. (Photo: Associated Press/Noah Berger)

Please join us in prayer for families grieving the loss of loved ones and the thousands who have been displaced by the fires.

A team of crisis-trained Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains—mostly made up of California residents—has deployed to the Camp Fire near Sacramento.

The horrific wildfire killed more than 80 people.

Josh Holland, assistant director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team noted the Camp Fire is “now officially the most destructive fire in California’s state history. Our chaplains are serving alongside the local church to bring hope during this devastating time.”

Those who narrowly escaped experienced sheer terror and unimaginable fear. Some prayed as they tried to get away in their cars or on foot. One couple slid down a canyon to escape. An elderly couple ran out of gas before their son rescued them from the wall of flames.

“I thought, this must be what hell’s going to be,” 87-year-old Beverly Fillmore told the Mercury News. She and her 91-year-old husband thought they were going to die in the fire.

With so many people experiencing loss, trauma and fear, the Rapid Response chaplains are leaning on God minute by minute as they seek to comfort the suffering.

“The chaplains are there to try to help people get through just the next hour of their life,” said Al New, the Rapid Response Team’s manager of emergency response and logistics.

Sheriff’s deputies in Paradise, California, carry the remains of a wildfire victim. First responders have the gut-wrenching task of searching the ashes for bodies, as the Camp Fire death toll is expected to rise.

“We are definitely praying for the first responders, the firefighters, and that some way, somehow, the weather would change and we’d get a lot of rain,” said New, who is a retired firefighter.

“And we’re praying for the residents of those areas who are facing the fear of the unknown, the fear of the loss of friends and family and homes. It’s a very strenuous time, emotionally.”

An estimated 7,600 single-family homes have been destroyed, according to news reports.

Chaplains also deployed to the Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles, where at least three people died. Tens of thousands of acres and many homes have burned. Some neighborhoods have been reopened, allowing residents in to see if their home survived.

Rapid Response Team ministry continues in the community of Thousand Oaks, California, where a gunman took 12 people’s lives and then his own on Nov. 7.

With multiple tragedies in a short span of time and all in the same state, chaplains are asking for continued prayers as they seek to bring the kind of peace and hope only Christ can offer in times like this.

Do you know what it’s like to have peace in the midst of tragedy?

Find that peace today.

Would you like to help send chaplains into disaster zones?
Support the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.