Wildfires completely burned the vegetation surrounding the Pateros (WA) United Methodist Church's sign while leaving it untouched. The church lost its parsonage to the blaze but the fires left the church building relatively unscathed. Photo by David Reinholz.

By the Rev. Stanley J. Norman

“This is a very active and fluid situation,” fire spokesman Chuck Turey said. Mr. Turey is a master of understatement.

In the old days, when a ship had sailed around in a circle, the sailors would say that the ship had “boxed the compass.” The wildfires in Eastern Washington seem to be boxing the compass. The uncertainty of not knowing where the fires will head next is perhaps the worst part of the disaster unveiling itself in Eastern Washington and in several other locations in the West.

Here’s what we do know:

  • Washington State Emergency Managers report only one fatality related to the fires as of Sunday morning, a firefighter or volunteer.
  • About 150 homes have been destroyed, including the United Methodist parsonage in Pateros.
  • About 200 homes are still threatened.
  • Thousands of acres and hundreds of square miles have been burned.

Here’s what we have done and are doing:

  • We’re working with our many partners in disaster response to monitor the situation.
  • We’ve provided funding for temporary housing for the pastor and his family whose home was destroyed in Pateros.
  • We’ve placed crews of trained volunteers who can help with clean-up on alert.
  • We’re constantly in touch with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) who are standing by to provide us with whatever additional assistance we need to respond to this emergency.
  • We are praying for those of any faith and no faith who are affected by this disaster.

[quote_box_right]Donate to the Pacific Northwest Conference Disaster Response Fund, Conference Advance #352, memo “Washington Wildfires” and mail to the Conference Treasurer at P.O. Box 13650, Des Moines, WA 98198-1009.[/quote_box_right]Here’s what you can do:

  • Donate to the Pacific Northwest Conference Disaster Response Fund, Conference Advance #352. We don’t know yet exactly how these funds will be spent, but we promise you, they will be spent to help victims of disasters within the Pacific Northwest Conference.
  • Keep informed. Check the news outlets. Check websites and Facebook.
  • Pray! There is no substitute for the prayers of God’s people. The people of Eastern Washington need our prayers. This is another opportunity to extend God’s grace. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

The Rev. Stanley J. Norman is the Disaster Preparedness & Response Coordinator for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.


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