September 22, 2022 | by Steve Elliott
On September 3rd, the Mill Fire burned out the historic neighborhood of Lincoln Heights in Weed, California (far Northern California). Lincoln Heights is one of the oldest intact Black neighborhoods west of the Mississippi. It dates to the early days of the last century when Blacks migrated to California to escape racism in the South.
Tragically, the fire started at the very lumber mill that founded the neighborhood in the 1920’s as a place to live for mill workers. About 4000 acres burned, two people died and over 100 homes destroyed or damaged.
Your California-Nevada Disaster Response Ministry assisted with survivors and evacuee relief for three days in early September at the Siskiyou County Local Assistance Center. We served over two hundred households.
Sadly, the impact of the damage extended far beyond the footprint of the fire because of a nearly weeklong power shutoff. Besides fire destroyed homes or smoke/soot damaged homes, hundreds of people lost all their food to spoilage.
Our Ministry of Presence focused on listening to stories of loss, fear and now recovery. We also offered gift cards, hygiene kits, cleaning supplies and debris sifting tools. We even had school kits and reusable water bottles. All this funded or donated by the generous churches of the Cal-Nev Conference. We are so grateful for the support.
As is always the case, our core staffing was trained and badged Early Response Team members supplemented by volunteers from the local church, in this case, Yreka UMC. Mount Shasta UMC provided a place to stay. And next, volunteers from churches in this circuit will do the survivor follow up. We want to check on how their recovery is going and offer additional assistance, as appropriate.
Among our clients, a lady who had lived in her home for 80 years. She knows no other place. In one family, the grandmother, her daughter, and another family member lost all three homes in a two-block area. Some residents not only lost a home, but their job, beloved pets and of course, all lost fond memories. Many burned through their meager savings on temporary housing. There is no way to fast forward through the grief and starting over. Recovery is one step at a time.