The Carr Fire near Redding, California, has burned more than 112,000 acres, an area roughly the size of Denver, since igniting on July 23. Flames have destroyed more than 960 homes in and around Redding, a town 200 miles north of San Francisco and home to 90,000 residents. Carr is now the seventh most destructive fire in state history.
The fire has killed at least eight people, and more than a dozen are reported missing. Carr is so large and so hot, it has created its own weather system. Residents reported seeing fire tornadoes, and the rising smoke and ash created towering, dark pyrocumulus clouds. As of Wednesday morning, the fire is only 30 percent contained, and firefighting costs have already reached $24 million.
The disaster has people worried, desperate and, sadly, quick to falsely attack others.
That’s what’s happened to Bethel Church in Redding, California.
Church leaders took heat on social media from people angry that the church didn’t open its doors to victims evacuated by the fire.
My alma mater has opened its doors as an evacuation center for the Carr fire in Redding, but Bethel Church directly across the street hasn’t. I just have to wonder why.
— Merry Rebecca 🌲 (@sonrisacolor) July 29, 2018
Did Bethel Church In Redding CA, Openly Refused To Be An Evacuation Site!??!!? https://t.co/VmztN1bUUF
— TOBChurch (@TOBChurch) July 30, 2018
— javier (@DEPOSlT) July 28, 2018
Bethel Church Poorly Situated to Be an Evacuation Center for Redding Fire
Lauren Vallotton, operations director for the church, said they didn’t open their doors because the building was considered unsafe for large crowds when a fire is raging nearby. The church sits on a hill at the end of a long, narrow road. With only one road in and out, it would be a disaster if the flames moved in on the church.
The Red Cross told ABC10 Sacramento that the church offered its facilities as an evacuation center but the church was too close to the fire line to have people stay in it overnight so they have partnered with the Salvation Army to be a distribution hub instead.
Jordan Pacilio, Bethel’s director of global response, said the church will be feeding people as they come through the building. Bethel has also set aside its sanctuary as a “cooling center” for those who need a break from the intense heat caused by the fire.
Meanwhile, church volunteers are separating food and other donations given to the Salvation Army to pass out to those in need.
Bethel recently took ABC10 Sacramento on a tour of their response efforts to show viewers they really care about their community.
Many of the church staff are in the same situation as those they’re helping, they’ve been evacuated or have lost homes to the wildfire.