Update: Fundraising starts to aid victims of Southern California fires

IMAGE: CNS photo/David McNew, Reuters


LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Archdiocese of
Los Angeles has started a fund for victims of the wildfires that have raced
through the archdiocese and were threatening to spread to locations in the
nearby Orange and San Diego dioceses.

“Friends, as the wildfires
continue, the needs of our neighbors continue to increase,” said
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles on the archdiocesan webpage that hosts
the fundraising campaign, https://tinyurl.com/yaa4qlu2.

“In this season of giving, let us
open our heart to our brothers and sisters in need,” he added. “Let
us keep praying for an end to the fires and let us keep praying for the safety
of our police, fire and emergency workers — and all those who are in harm’s

In a Dec. 8 statement from Washington, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked prayers for all those in danger, “both those whose homes are in the fire’s path and those courageous first responders and firefighters who are putting their lives at risk.”

The wildfires, which have stubbornly
resisted most efforts to be reined in by firefighters, have hit Los Angeles,
Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in the archdiocese.

This is the second set of wildfires to
have hit California this fall. Wildfires burned thousands of acres in the
Sonoma and Napa areas in the northern part of the state in October, killing 31,
scorching more than 128,000 acres and causing an estimated $3 billion-$6
billion in damage.

The Southern California series of wildfires
had passed the 150,000-acre mark within four days of their starting Dec. 4. As
of the morning of Dec. 8 local time, no fatalities had been reported despite
the density of population in the region.

Four counties have already declared a
state of emergency.

Archbishop Gomez on Dec. 5 called for
prayers for the well-being of families, firefighters and rescue workers
“facing devastating fires and high winds” in the wildfires.

“May God keep them all safe and put
an end to these fires!” the archbishop said in a message sent via social
media channels and posted on the archdiocesan news site, angelusnews.com.

On Twitter, Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop
Robert E. Barron said the fires in Ventura County, which is in his pastoral
region, had alone forced 30,000 people to evacuate.

“Join me in praying for all the
evacuees, firefighters, officials, and everyone helping to subdue the
flames,” he tweeted. About 1,000 firefighters were working to contain the
wind-driven flames.

Called the Thomas Fire, it is the
biggest of the wildfires being stoked by dry conditions and high winds. Among
the evacuees in Ventura County were students and faculty at Thomas Aquinas
College in Santa Paula.

In a message posted on its website and
on Twitter, the Catholic college expressed “deep gratitude for the prayers
of its many friends and for the heroic firefighters who battled all of Monday
night (Dec. 4) to protect the Santa Paula campus.”

The college canceled classes for the
rest of the week as roads had been closed and power was out in some communities.
“The college is hopeful that it will reopen in time for final exams next
week,” the college said in a Dec. 5 statement.

Students from California who had
transportation were considering returning home for the time being; others
planned to remain at the homes of local friends and faculty.

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