California Fires: Reports from OPC in Novato, CA
by Rev. Reid Hankins, Pastor, Trinity OPC, Novato, CA (updated October 17, 2017)
Update on Oct. 17:
Thank you for everyone's prayers. I am thankful to report that at this time, all our church members who had to evacuate their homes have been allowed to return. I praise the Lord that none of our church members have suffered any property loss in these fires, despite several close calls.
Though the fires are still going, the progress on containment is progressing very well according to news reports. Now we begin the work of trying to help our community rebuild, and especially to minister to our fellow saints from other congregations in the area who have suffered much loss. We have been reaching out to these churches to see how we can help, especially to Redeemer PCA in Santa Rosa who had a number of families lose homes.
Pray that Christ and the gospel would be magnified through all of this!
Above is a shot I got of some of the fire damage. This was a retail store on Piner Road in Santa Rosa, just a few blocks away from an area that was completely devastated by the fire. It’s hard to get pictures at this point because areas of widespread damage are still blocked off to all but residents or news media.
Below are photos I took of the community airport in Petaluma, just two blocks from my home. Last week, CAL FIRE turned it into a staging area for aerial drops to fight the fire. So, this typically quiet airport has been kept very busy the last few days! It’s been a comfort to hear the frequent helicopter sounds over our home, knowing that they are hard at work to protect our community and fight these fires.
Report #1 on Oct. 12:
Greetings from Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC), Novato, CA in the name of the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
It is has been a very difficult last few days for our community. I am thankful to report that all our members are currently safe and as of last report, their homes safe. Several households in the Santa Rosa area have had to evacuate. Some have been able to return. As of writing, there is still one members’ house that we are not sure of its current status.
While we rejoice that our church so far has not suffered significant loss with these fiery ordeals, we especially mourn with many fellow Christians from other churches in this area who have. It seems that most people that I talk to know of at least one friend or family member who has lost a home (if not several). I attended a TGC pastors luncheon today for this area and heard reports how each church has been affected, homes lost, and some churches not expecting to have access to their facilities for this coming Lord’s Day.
I know many have been reaching out to ask how we can help. There will certainly be various needs in the days ahead. Right now we are all just focused on the immediate matter of keeping track of people, helping those who have been evacuated with food, shelter, clothing, etc, and ministering to one another with a lot of prayer.
Please pray for God’s mercies upon us as fire fighters seek to stop these many fires and preserve life and property. This afternoon we entered back into a red flag warning as winds have increased significantly. That likely means that the fire will spread more quickly, and more evacuations may be needed and more homes threatened. Please do be prayer warriors, interceding for us here in Northern California!
My own city of Petaluma and our home is on heightened alert tonight. With the winds picking up, the fires located to the northeast of Petaluma could begin to threaten our area if the winds change direction. Our family has bags packed just in case.
In all this, we have a great peace that Romans 8:28 is still in effect.
Report #2 on Oct. 12:
Just a quick update for the city of Petaluma specifically (where my family lives and a few other of our church members): There was concerns going to bed last night that possible strong winds could bring the fires that are to the east of us to Petaluma overnight. Everyone was on even more heightened alert last night because of that. I am thankful to report that we woke up this morning still in our homes. As of now, there are still no evacuations in Petaluma though Petaluma EOC continues to encourage people to be prepared if needed to evacuate. Daylight certainly helps the firefighters keep these fires at bay and so we are thankful in Petaluma to have made it through the night.
Thank you all for your continued prayers! The Lord’s mercies are new every morning! Great is His faithfulness!