Church Members Rally Together in Wake of Wildfire

fire in Paradise, California mormon
Photo via Scott Strazzante, San Francisco Chronicle

Two bishops in Paradise, California, are actively ministering to those in their area as Camp Fire continues to cause damage.

Although Paradise 1st Ward Bishop Robert Harrison and Paradise 2nd Ward Bishop Troy Mattson have both lost their homes to the fire, they have been busy ensuring their members are okay and directing relief efforts. Bishop Harrison says ninety-five percent of members in his ward have lost their homes.

charred church walls mormon
Photo via James Dimmitt

Camp Fire continues to wipe out most of Paradise, a town comprised of around 27,000 people. Recently, the death toll has risen from 29 to 48 and around 230 people are “unaccounted for” according to public safety officers. With these numbers and the widespread damage, Camp Fire has now been labeled as California’s deadliest wildfire.

In the midst of these difficult days, Paradise’s Latter-day Saints have been rallying together. They are opening their homes and resources to those who have lost theirs, offering comfort, and working under the direction of Bishop Harrison and Bishop Mattson.

Both bishops have been attempting to communicate with their ward members to ensure their safety and well-being. Bishop Harrison stated all members of the Paradise 1st Ward are accounted for. However, Bishop Mattson has only been able to contact most of his ward members. Whenever he discovers that a previously unaccounted for member is alive and okay, he “rejoices.”

Members of both wards welcomed combined Sunday services, which provided time for peace and worship among the chaos. After enjoying sacrament meeting at the Chico stake center, they met in the cultural hall for a meal together.

The Paradise members left the Sunday meeting reminded that they would not have to face the coming weeks and months alone. “It was good to get together and just spend time with one another,” said Bishop Mattson. “Everyone left with clothing, food, toiletries and bedding.”

In the coming years it will take to rebuild their town, Latter-day Saints in Paradise plan to minister to one another to get through the hard times.

For the full story, see Jason Swensen’s article.