California-Nevada Annual Conference Disaster Response has been assessing its role in regard to the "49 Fire" in North Auburn, California, which consumed more than 300 acres and some 63 homes before being contained.
Disaster Response Coordinator Norm Hardin reports, "The national office of UMCOR [United Methodist Committee on Relief] has been notified and stands ready to respond if they are requested. At this point there does not appear to be an urgent need for outside assistance.
"Our prayers are with all those who have lost their homes," he adds.
The Rev. Barbara Smith, pastor of Pioneer United Methodist Church in Auburn, spent Wednesday talking with officials of county government and the Red Cross chapter and visiting the 49 Fire Local Assistance Center, offering help from United Methodists if it were needed, and looking for gaps in service and any unmet needs. She found, though, that the community has responded effectively, "just pouring out clothes and food," she says.
Smith says most of the people reporting to the assistance center have had adequate fire insurance, and the "handful" of renters were receiving adequate assistance.
Pioneer UMC was not damaged but one member of the congregation lost her home to the flames. "She was well insured and has lots of family around" to provide support, however, the pastor says. Another family in the congregation experienced a near miss and was "pretty well traumatized," however.
Rev. Smith says she will continue to monitor the situation, mindful of vulnerable families or individuals who may fall through the cracks of the services that are in place to help.