SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (BP)–As Arizona’s Wallow Fire moves past 50 percent containment, Southern Baptists are transitioning from relief to recovery work and preparing to assist victims of the Monument Fire in the southern part of the state if needed.
The Wallow Fire, which has burned more than half a million acres in eastern Arizona, was 56 percent contained as of June 20, CNN reported, and evacuated residents began to return to some areas.
In response to the fire, Southern Baptist disaster relief workers deployed a shower unit to a shelter in Lakeside but ceased operation of the unit last week when the shelter shut down. Larry Hyde, Arizona disaster relief state coordinator, told Baptist Press that he left the shower unit in place though, in case it is needed during recovery efforts.
He added that the shower unit was a valuable tool for showing displaced residents the love of Jesus and said the Red Cross thanked Southern Baptists for their helpful response to the fire.
“The response that we got from the Red Cross and from others up there was that the comfort and the ministry that [the disaster relief workers] provided was just priceless,” Hyde said. “They so appreciated them with their spirit, just being able to minister. [The shower unit] was a kind of calm place that people could go and get away from the busyness of what was going on and all the circumstances.”
One important aspect of the Wallow Fire ministry was the work of disaster relief chaplains, Hyde said. Several chaplains in the area served the shelter on a rotating basis, providing spiritual assistance both to Southern Baptist workers and fire victims.
Chaplains “spend as much time as they can in shelters and try to minister to the spiritual needs of people trying to go through the recovery process of a disaster,” he said. “… They’ll offer spiritual comfort and some advice. They’re a good resource because they know of other agencies and resources available to folks to help them figure out what they’re going to do next.”
If needed, recovery teams will move into affected areas and help returning residents sort through burned debris. The teams can also clean off the foundations of homes and assist with rebuilding, Hyde said.
“It’s kind of a dirty job,” he said. “They just get in there and waller around in the soot and the ashes and stuff with the home owners and gather up anything that looks like it’s valuable and help clean off the slabs.”
Meanwhile, another team of Arizona Southern Baptists is on standby to cook meals for victims of the Monument Fire in the southern part of the state. Hyde said he has already deployed a kitchen unit to the area and is assembling a team to man it if needed.
A second shower unit is also ready to be deployed to the Monument Fire, according to Hyde.
“I had a request for availability from the Red Cross this afternoon,” he said June 20. “We don’t have anything definite at this point.”
The Monument Fire, which was first spotted June 12, burned 27,000 acres and was 27 percent contained after one week, the Tucson Citizen reported.
Hyde said Arizona Southern Baptists are willing to move any of their shower or kitchen units wherever they can be of help in the fire-affected areas.
“If there’s a need at another shelter or if we set up recovery, or if there’s just a need in our community where they need that shower unit, that’s one reason why it’s there,” he said. “It’s there to be of service to the community. It gives us opportunities to go out and share Jesus with people. When they see the shower trailers and stuff like that come in and we’re not charging anything for this, they begin to ask questions.”
David Roach is a writer and pastor in Shelbyville, Ky.