MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday the 22nd of November, 2018. Happy Thanksgiving! Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: a report on the devastating wildfires out west.
The Camp Fire in California has killed at least 81 people so far, hundreds more are missing, more than 13,000 homes are destroyed, and a town was basically wiped off the map. The name of the town: Paradise.
REICHARD: WORLD reporter Samantha Gobba lives in nearby Chico, California. She’s here now to discuss the situation. Samantha, what is going on in Chico?
SAMANTHA GOBBA, REPORTER: Chico is dealing with an influx of people right now from Paradise, from Magalia, from Concow due to the Camp fire, which basically wiped out multiple municipalities and it has killed dozens of people. It’s now the deadliest fire and the most destructive fire in California history. And the nearest city to that devastation is Chico, my current hometown. And it is unbelievable the volume of people who have fled, that has come into Chico.
The Walmart parking lot is now essentially a refugee camp. The churches are bulging at the seams trying to house them. People are staying in tents, people are staying in RVs, people are living in their cars, they’re living with friends, and they’re living in churches.
REICHARD: So now what kind of aid is coming in, if any, from state or federal governments?
GOBBA: State and federal aid is coming in and people, of course, are getting help from insurance companies, but it doesn’t move as fast as sometimes they need. So, immediate needs are often met first by churches and other local groups. So, churches were the first ones to set up shelters and FEMA is here now and it does have some shelters, but people are still living in churches—church buildings, church parking lots, etc.
REICHARD: So talk about what the churches are doing.
GOBBA: It depends on the church. I have spent some time at East Avenue Church where about 200 people are living in the gym and in the parking lot and in the family room. Several other churches have housing set up, so people are living on cots and some churches who don’t have evacuee centers are sending teams of people to help serve food, to help sort clothes, and just meet the needs of people who have lost everything.
REICHARD: Samantha, I want to share some audio you gathered. This is from a meeting you attended, a meeting of pastors working to help families displaced by the fire.
This is Kevin Cox. He’s head of the Hope Crisis Response Network, and let’s listen as he talks about the church’s role in disaster relief.
COX: We’re seeing the church in action right now. And that, that’s why we exist. And in times of disaster, we forget about that sometimes. Sometimes what happens is that the big guys come in. You’ve got the Red Cross over here, and you’ve got FEMA, and you’ve got the state, but we’re the church. And the church is greater and bigger than any of those agencies. We have more resources than any of those agencies. We have what we need within the church to be able to provide for these families.
REICHARD: Sounds like a lot of collaboration.
GOBBA: They are working together and they are trying to help each other out. I spoke with Adam Peacock who works with Sonoma County Churches United Relief and he has been through multiple fires in California helping get things set up and his comment to me was that—quote—”I definitely see churches making room for one another, not just trying to do it themselves, but looking for how they can support one another.”
REICHARD: That is good news. Let’s end now with a bit of the prayer offered at that pastors’ meeting by Chico Police Department chaplain Bud Chauvin.
CHAUVIN: We really need the head to direct the body. So guide us and direct us as we seek to reach out to our neighbors, our families, our friends. Anyhow. So glad we’ve got you, Jesus. Bless your word now. Psalm 61…
REICHARD: Samantha Gobba is a WORLD correspondent who lives in Chico, California. Thanks for this, Samantha.
GOBBA: Thanks for having me on.