by Monte Sahlin

By AT News Team, July 24, 2014

Record forest fires across the State of Washington in America's northwest have resulted in more than 250,000 burned over acres of wilderness and the loss of hundreds of homes. To help people who have lost everything, Adventist Community Services (ACS), the disaster relief agency sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist denomination and registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross is operating warehouse in Okanogan to supply emergency needs.

The Upper Columbia Conference ACS organization is raising cash donations to make large bulk purchases of needed items from companies that give deep discounts for humanitarian relief. The donations will provide drinking water, baby supplies, blankets, groceries, cleaning supplies, etc., for families who have lost everything. Many have damaged homes that must be repaired or replaced.

The Adventist church in Brewster opened its doors to the community to share needed emergency items after a near miss with a wildfire earlier this week. Volunteers opened an ACS relief center only hours after the church building itself was threatened by the Carlton Complex fire which has become the largest wildfire in state history.

Homes around the church were evacuated after authorities issued a level three mandatory evacuation notice for the Hospital Hill area. Flames from the wildfire were rapidly approaching the church and could be seen coming up over the hill to the south. The members prayed while the fire ravaged the area, burning everything in its path. According to Pastor Ryan Kilgore, one church family lost their home and several others lost cabins, and a total of 185 homes have been destroyed by the blaze in this small town.

As soon as the immediate danger was over and the evacuation notice was lifted for the area, the members began planning how they could help their community. Within hours they organized a distribution center for those who had lost everything. In addition, some members went door to door in the areas hardest hit, helping to connect people with generators.

The fire, more than four times the size of Seattle, the largest metropolitan area in the northwest, began on July 14 from lightning as a weather system moved through the Methow Valley. At one point, the fire was more than 100 miles long. There are about 2,110 firefighters and emergency personnel working in the area now.

“It’s nearly five days now since the Carlton Complex fire descended into Pateros, Alta Lake, and Brewster," said Kilgore. "Aid has been coming in to support the hundreds of families who have lost homes and the hundreds or thousands more who are without power or water. … What will remain after the news stories are over and the aid workers leave is still to be discovered. Our church will be working over the long term to support our neighbors who have been devastated by the fire, particularly those who had no fire insurance.”

Individuals and groups that wish to support the ACS efforts in the State of Washington can send donations to ACS at Box 641, Brewster WA 98812. Information in this story came from a news release from the Upper Columbia Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.