September 14, 2015: The Valley Fire in the State of California started Sabbath afternoon in the Napa Valley and by this morning was leading television news across the United States. At least one Adventist family was not permitted by authorities to return home after church and believe their house has been burned. The California Fire Service reports that the fire is as close as 15 miles from the campus of Pacific Union College, an Adventist institution in the area.
A total of 61,000 acres had been burned over by 8 am Pacific Time and the fire was only five percent contained, an official bulletin stated. “Hundreds of homes and hundreds of other structures have been destroyed.” Four injuries had been reported. The fire continues to grow in hot, windy conditions.
Evacuations were ordered near Middletown, Berryesa Estates, Cobb, Seigler Canyon, Loch Lomond and Hidden Valley Lakes. Emergency shelters are in operation at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga, Kelseyville High School, Redwood Empire Fairgrounds in Ukiah and Highland Senior Center.
A total of 1,255 fire personnel are fighting the fire. They are using 117 fire engines, 49 water tenders, 24 bulldozers, 10 helicopters and four air tankers, according to official information.
Pacific Union College has an enrollment of about 1,700 students and a faculty of nearly 160. It is operated by the Pacific Union Conference in the denomination’s North American Division. It is near the historic site of the last home of Ellen G. White, the most prominent cofounder of the denomination, and a hospital affiliated with the denomination.
The Angwin Volunteer Fire Department, which includes students and employees among the firefighters, posted a Twitter message stating that the “fire is most active on the north end away from Angwin.” A number of alumni and other Adventists have posted prayer requests and best wishes on the college’s Facebook page.