The outbreak of the Kincade Fire followed by the “wind event” early Sunday morning (October 27) with successive evacuations–first warnings, then mandatory– was not something we had anticipated. Saturday afternoon, October 26, we were able to contact members and friends of First Presbyterian Church who reside in Healdsburg to check on their safety and status of their homes. We were satisfied that they felt safe and all was well for now. As the day drew to a close, we thought electricity—whether we would have power at church on Sunday or not—was our primary concern. Thus, our last church communication stated that with or without power we would keep to our Sunday worship schedule. By 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, our attention and concerns shifted rapidly.
Once we learned of the severity of the winds (with gusts up to 80-100 mph), the growth and threat of the fire, and the extent of the evacuations—we realized we needed to open the church doors to assist people who were being evacuated. By midnight, 15 people had come to the church for shelter. By 4:00 a.m. that number grew to 53. With widespread evacuations and uncertainty of the status of the fire, we decided at 6:00 a.m. not hold worship services. Our church family needed to focus on immediate needs and concerns related to personal safety and security. We conveyed our decision via a website blog and Facebook. Despite our late and limited means of communication only nine people came for worship that day.
As of today (October 29, 2019), five days since its inception, the Kincade Fire, has burned 76,000 acres, destroyed 189 structures (including 86 homes), and forced the evacuation of over 186,000 residents of Sonoma County. If not for the valiant work of 4,548 firefighters, the towns of Healdsburg, Windsor and the Wikiup section of Santa Rosa would have experienced severe losses. The dedicated crews who held the line and fought back the advancing flames deserve our gratitude and continued prayers for their safety.
This fire event is different than 2017. Though not as devastating (thus far) overall as the North Bay Fires, the Kincade Fire is nevertheless frightening, disruptive, and costly. People who depend on the consistency of daily wages, rely on weekly business income, or must unexpectedly care for children home from school are sorely affected by the fire, power outages, and large-scale displacement of people. Yet at this time, we are pleased to report that none of our church family have lost their homes. Our prayers are with neighbors and business owners who have not been so fortunate.
Published on October 30, 2019