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Baptist Relief volunteers assist wildfire survivors

July 21, 2014

By Kristen Camp 

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) teams began preparing meals and providing shelter on Sunday, July 20, for families affected by wildfires in Okanogan County Washington.

The fires began Monday, July 14, after lightening struck in Methow Valley and spread to an area of over 7,000 acres by Thursday.

The Northwest Baptist Convention is sending feeding units, as well as chaplains, to the affected areas to minister to the families who have been evacuated from their homes. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has sent funding to assist with the effort.

“Right now because the fire is burning in such a way that it is not contained, we can’t do any work that we could normally do to help homeowners,” said NAMB DR executive director Fritz Wilson. “We have to wait until they contain the fires. Once the homeowners can get back into their homes, our teams can be in position to help them with disaster relief.”

Approximately 3,000 meals will be prepared each day at Chelan High School and then distributed to families in Pateros, Methow, Carlton, Winthrop and Mazama, according to officials.

A Level 2 evacuation notice was issued to the city of Twisp, prohibiting meals from being distributed there until the fires have either been contained or have spread to a different location.  

“What happens in wildfire situations is that one family may have to evacuate for a short period of time and then they are able to return to their homes. Then another family comes in because the fires move and the evacuations move. So our teams have the opportunity to minister to families from several different areas,” said Wilson.

Beyond feeding fire survivors and first responders, SBDR volunteers will often assist homeowners and local officials with ash out efforts after the fires have been extinguished. These efforts include helping homeowners sift through the remainder of their homes to find any surviving valuables or mementos. After this process is completed, SBDR volunteers often assist with cleanup of home sites.

NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.

Southern Baptists have 82,000 trained volunteers–including chaplains–and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

To donate to SBDR efforts, contact the Southern Baptist convention in your state or visit Donations are also accepted at 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) and at NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”

Kristen Camp writes for the North American Mission Board. Mike Ebert and Lindsey Conway contributed to this article. 

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