Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Chaplains Deploying to Horrific California Wildfires

By    •   November 11, 2018

A mother and daughter hug each other at the site of their destroyed home in Paradise, California. The Camp Fire has claimed many lives and has become the most destructive wildfire in California history.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. —Galatians 6:2

A team of crisis-trained Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains—mostly made up of California residents—has deployed to the Camp Fire near Sacramento.

The horrific wildfire has killed more than 20 people, and local officials are warning that the death toll could grow significantly as more remains are discovered.

Those who narrowly escaped experienced sheer terror and unimaginable fear. Some prayed as they tried to get away in their cars or on foot. One couple slid down a canyon to escape. An elderly couple ran out of gas before their son rescued them from the wall of flames.

“I thought, this must be what hell’s going to be,” 87-year-old Beverly Fillmore told the Mercury News. She and her 91-year-old husband thought they were going to die in the fire.

With so many people experiencing loss, trauma and fear, the Rapid Response chaplains are leaning on God minute by minute as they seek to comfort the suffering.

“The chaplains are there to try to help people get through just the next hour of their life,” said Al New, the Rapid Response Team’s manager of emergency response and logistics.

Sheriff’s deputies in Paradise, California, carry the remains of a wildfire victim. First responders have the gut-wrenching task of searching the ashes for bodies, as the Camp Fire death toll is expected to rise.

“We are definitely praying for the first responders, the firefighters, and that some way, somehow, the weather would change and we’d get a lot of rain,” said New, who is a retired firefighter.

“And we’re praying for the residents of those areas who are facing the fear of the unknown, the fear of the loss of friends and family and homes. It’s a very strenuous time, emotionally.”

As one chaplain team serves in the nearly-obliterated city of Paradise, in Northern California, another group has deployed to the Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles, where tens of thousands of acres and many homes have burned.

As of Sunday, 11 chaplains are also ministering in the community of  Thousand Oaks, California, where a gunman took 12 people’s lives and then his own on Wednesday night.

With multiple tragedies in a short span of time and all in the same state, chaplains are asking for continued prayers as they seek to bring the kind of peace and hope only Christ can offer in times like this.

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