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Colo. wildfire battle includes Baptist disaster relief meals

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (BP)–Southern Baptist disaster relief units are well into their second week preparing meals for evacuees, firefighters and other emergency personnel responding to the largest wildfire in Colorado’s history. Units from Texas and Oklahoma have prepared more than 7,000 meals to date.

The wildfire, located in the Pike National Forest southwest of Denver, has consumed more than 113,000 acres, according to news reports. More than 6,000 people have evacuated their homes.

Disaster relief volunteers from First Baptist Church of Plains, Texas — part of the “Top of Texas” feeding unit — were among the first to arrive on the scene during the early morning hours of June 8, said Gary Smith, a volunteer from Addison, Texas, who serves as on-site coordinator for the operation. From a base at First Baptist Church of Canyon City, Colo., they served meals for evacuees in shelters operated by the American Red Cross.

The unit relocated to Castle Rock, Colo., June 14, where they have been preparing meals for firefighters and other emergency personnel in cooperation with the Salvation Army. The command center at the Douglas County Fairgrounds also includes distribution of toiletries and other essential items that have been donated, as well as cards from children and other expressions of support from across the country.

“They always thank us, and they’re very courteous,” Smith said of the workers battling the wildfire. “One guy last night said he’s been fighting fires for nine years and this is the best support he’s ever seen.”

An Oklahoma mobile kitchen, meanwhile, began preparing meals June 14 at Monument Hills Church in Monument, Colo.

In other ongoing national responses of Southern Baptist relief, a flood recovery operation in West Virginia that began May 2 has transitioned to a long-term rebuilding effort — in which volunteers will help rebuild homes damaged in the floods.

In New York, a mobile kitchen operation at the Staten Island landfill containing the debris from the World Trade Center continues a response dating back to the Sept. 11 attack. A team from the Northwest Baptist Convention is currently serving at the site, which is expected to close June 30. A total of more than 1,268,000 meals have been prepared in the New York operation to date.

Disaster relief volunteers in Minnesota/Wisconsin and Illinois also have responded to floods in those states in recent days, with a Minnesota/Wisconsin mobile kitchen unit continuing to prepare meals for distribution by the American Red Cross.

More than 24,000 trained volunteers currently are a part of the Southern Baptist disaster relief network nationwide. The units generally are owned and operated by state conventions and local associations and coordinated nationally by the North American Mission Board.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: BACK TO WORK and SERVING MEALS.

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  • James Dotson