CA still recovering from fires

Three new long-term recovery organizations have been created in California to help meet needs that are still surfacing.

BY SUSAN KIM | LOS ANGELES | December 17, 2003



"For mile after mile it was as though we were driving on the surface of the moon."

—Gil Furst


Three new long-term recovery organizations have been created in California to help meet needs that are still surfacing, said a Church World Service (CWS) Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison Dick Eskes.

The new groups are based in San Diego, San Bernardino and Lake Arrowhead.

Eskes said "intense needs assessment" would occur in January, with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee playing a major role. "We are still not sure just how many people will need help," said Eskes.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 3,631 homes were destroyed and 152 homes were damaged. Hardest hit was San Diego County, where 2,454 were destroyed and 63 were damaged. San Bernardino County was also hit hard, with 1,128 homes destroyed and another 71 damaged.

Gil Furst of Lutheran Disaster Response described the devastation after a recent visit to southern California: "For mile after mile it was as though we were driving on the surface of the moon. Everything was gray and black. The ground was burned and baked. Vegetation was gone, and bare boulders showed on mountainsides.

"In communities there is random destruction. The fires were fanned by the Santa Ana winds, so they acted like tornadoes, randomly destroying one house and not another, burning entire blocks and sparing others."

Some 750,000 acres were burned and 22 people were killeds when wildfires devastated southern California in October.

The Rev. Woody Hall at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in San Bernardino said that fire damage affected vulnerable people. "In this area," he said, "there are about 175,000 residents. Of those, 80,000 are below the poverty level. Here some 300-400 houses were burned, mostly of middle and low income families."

About 40 percent of the houses were uninsured or underinsured.

Hall said the damage wasn't limited just to structures but to people's spirits as well. "The trauma of the evacuation, and the sight of the huge walls of fire and smoke, will last for years," Hall said.

In San Diego County, in the community Ramona, the Rev. Don Erlanbusch said his community was hard hit as well. ""Much of the low income housing and trailer parks are simply gone," he said.

LDR has set up offices on both those churches, said Furst.

Many other CWS partners are also responding to fire-related needs.

San Diego created a new San Diego Regional Fire Prevention Emergency Preparedness Task Force that met for the first time Tuesday. The group comprises about two-dozen public officials, public safety workers, military personnel and others. It will evaluate response to the October wildfires and make recommendations for fire prevention and emergency preparedness.

Red flag or high fire danger warnings were posted for San Diego earlier this week.

The United Nations weather agency reported that the year 2003, marked by a sweltering summer and drought across large swaths of the planet, was the third hottest in nearly 150 years.


Related Topics:

Survivors struggle, help others

Episcopal churches find ways to help

Churches open doors to fire refugees


More links on Wildfires

Advertisers:

DNN Sponsors include:

Advertisements: