Pastor shares experience of California fire

“The ground is covered with black and gray ash; I’m told it looks like a black and white photo,” said the Rev. Cathie Capp, pastor of Ojai United Methodist Church.

Capp, along with other residents of Ojai, California, evacuated earlier this week when winds started blowing the flames toward the town. She will get a firsthand view of her home and town soon.

“My neighborhood and the church were thought to be in imminent danger as they predicted winds would blow the flames that are two blocks away,” she said. “Praise be to God, that didn’t happen.”

how you can help

The Conference Disaster Response Task Force has asked the following of all those interested in helping in this situation:

Visiting — Please do not make plans to visit the affected areas uninvited. When the need arises, a call for trained volunteers will be made.
Giving — The best way to help at this time is to give to the UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response Advance #901670
Contact — For more information on what can be done to help in this situation, contact Judy Lewis, Cal-Pac United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Coordinator, or call 909-731-8248.

Fires are still starting in new areas and continuing to burn in southern California. Authorities said the famed Santa Ana winds combined with near-drought conditions have devastated more than 115,000 acres north of Los Angeles.

The New York Times reports that the same forces that accounted for the wine country fires earlier this year are fueling these fires.

Capp said Ojai United Methodist Church is directly across the street from the high school that was one of the evacuation centers. As conditions worsened, Capp said she evacuated to her hometown of Pasadena.

“I had to drive north on the 33, but then the 5 South was closed due to fire in Valencia, so I had to drive 160 miles to get to someplace 50 miles away from me, normally,” she said.

Capp said Ojai is situated in a valley with only four entrance/exits. Since the beginning of the week at least one of these routes has been closed, and at times, all four were closed, she said.  

Before being forced to evacuate, Capp said she hosted a “makeshift” evacuation center for families affiliated with the church such as Scouting groups, preschool and the Ojai Community Chorus.

“Most of my members have left the area, but I do still have a handful of people in town with whom I have been communicating,” she said.

James Kang, communicator for the California-Pacific Conference, said reports are still coming in about damage and loss of homes.

“All Cal-Pac local churches in the affected areas will be open and available for hospitality, phone calls, prayer and hope,” he said. People in need of shelter are being referred to Red Cross Evacuation Centers.

Kang said any damages to church facilities or church family homes can be reported to respective district offices.

Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at 615-742-5470 or To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests. 

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