As California battles its second-largest wildfire in the state’s history, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) has crisis-trained chaplains serving communities in Napa Valley.
Among the hundreds of fires currently blazing in the Golden State, one of the largest active fires is called the LNU Lightning Complex. The inferno, which started on August 17, has caused at least five deaths and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings in Northern California.
“More than 100,000 people are facing evacuation orders as the flames have now claimed over 900,000 acres,” Franklin Graham posted on Facebook. “Incredibly, that’s an area larger than Rhode Island. The fires were sparked by nearly 12,000 lightning strikes in dry regions that haven’t had very much rain.”
Since then, the number of scorched acres has soared to 1.4 million around the San Francisco Bay area.
With the additional threat of a pandemic, there are fewer people headed to shelters than usual. Crisis-trained chaplains are available to offer a listening ear, comfort and prayers at their Mobile Ministry Center—a vehicle that serves as a safe haven for conversations—stationed at Grace Church of Napa Valley.
“We are saddened for all of those who have lost loved ones and property as we continue to see the devastation from numerous fires in California,” said RRT’s Assistant Director Josh Holland. “We have crisis-trained chaplains — some of whom have a background as firefighters — who will be on the ground at Grace Church to visit with those who are struggling with another crisis during this already difficult year.”
Holland said he hopes evacuees and residents will be able to open up while in a “tense state of mind” from the fires.
“There’s smoke everywhere throughout state,” Holland said. “I’m sure it’s constantly unsettling.”
RRT has deployed to this state numerous times, including to the historic Camp Fire in Paradise, California, that killed 88 people in 2018.
“The destruction — and the fear — is hard to fathom,” Franklin Graham said. “Imagine if this were your home, your community, your family at risk. Join me in praying for the people who live in these areas — and for the over 13,000 firefighters battling more than two dozen major blazes across the state. Let’s pray that God would help and protect them and that they would find comfort in knowing that He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)