November 17, 2008 News

Southern California Wildfires Update

At present there are still three main areas under assault by the fires.

The Brea and Triangle Complex Fire. A wind-blown wildfire that began in Riverside County and spread to Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties was 40% contained Monday after scorching 28,889 acres, according to the Orange County Fire Authority. Just before 2:00 p.m. PST today, new evacuation orders where issued for some of the areas affected this fire. The fire has affected the cities of: Chino Hills, Diamond Bar, Brea, Yorba Linda and Anaheim (Anaheim Hills). Mandatory evacuation orders are still in place for areas of Diamond Bar, Chino Hills and Yorba Linda.

The Tea Fire. The Tea Fire, so named because it started in The Tea House, a popular hangout for teenagers. Fire officials have eliminated all accidental causes for the fire, and believe it was "human caused". As of 2:00 p.m. PST the fire has destroyed over 200 homes in the Montecito and Santa Barbara areas. This fire is 80% contained.

As was previously reported, 14 homes in Las Barrancas were destroyed (an area adjacent to campus where the college built 41 homes for professors), the Westmont campus lost eight structures: three of the 17 buildings that make up Clark Halls (F, M and S), Bauder Hall, the physics building, the old math building and two Quonset huts. The latter three buildings were scheduled for demolition in the coming weeks to make way for new facilities on campus. While Westmont has lost trees and landscaped areas, the formal gardens below Kerrwood Hall were spared, as was the grove of Italian stone pines below the dining commons.

The Sayre Fire. This fire, so named because it started in Sayre Street in Sylmar, has now moved into Placerita Canyon, located to the Northwest of Slymar. The two major areas affected by this fire have been the Olive View/UCLA Medical Center and the Oak Ridge Mobile Home Park. While the hospital was saved, the fire destroyed all of the outlying building at the Medical Center. On Saturday it was originally reported that all of the 600+ mobile homes at Oak Ridge were destroyed. The finally count is actually 484 and 120 spared.

Some of you reading this post will remember OPC Ruling Elder Grover and his wife Delores Coleman. Their daughter Ilene and son-in-law Everett live two blocks from from Sayre Street, where the fire started. They were able to return home last evening and found that their home had not been damaged.

Paul and Laura (daughter of OPC teaching elder Carl Erickson) Gatlin, who are at present living on the East Coast, have written to say that the Sayre fire is burning away from the canyon where their California home is located.

Churches Affected

As of this afternoon, we do not have much additional information regarding OPC, PCA and URC congregations affected by the fires.


Christ Presbyterian Church in Santa Barbara—The family of at least one faculty member from Westmont College lost their home. Presently, they are staying at the house of Dick and Elaine Jacobsen who are members at Christ Presbyterian Church (Elaine's father, teaching elder Robert Nicholas, was a long time OPC pastor). Presently, the Jacobsens are housing four adults and three children.

Church in the Canyon in Calabasas—At this point we do not have anything to report.

Grace Presbyterian Church in Yorba Linda—Because of the fires Grace church was not able to hold worship services yesterday. Members of the congregation were encouraged to attend two other congregations. While the fires have not burned very close to the business park where the church meets, at this time their meeting place and offices are intact.

Do pray for the Scott and Stacey Young family who are members of this congregation. While their home was damaged by the fire, God spared their lives and many of the material belongings. However, because of the damage,it will be sometime before they can return to their home. Stacey is expecting a baby next month.

Valley Presbyterian Church in North Hills—While in the fires a month ago, three families who have children at the Christian School at Valley were affected by the fire, at this point we do not have anything to report.


El Camino Presbyterian Church in Goleta—The home of A.M. (Mac) and Virginia Laurie was spared and presently they have returned home (as of this afternoon, Virginia says they are still "unpacking the car").

A young woman, Angeline Ross, who is a student at Westmont College, lost everything when her dormitory burned. Her parents are missionaries in France, so she does not have anyone to help her but the church.


Christ Reformed Church—They have two families in the Brea area and three in the Anaheim Hills/Yorba Linda area. At this point everyone is safe.

God bless,
John K. Novinger, chairman
Diaconal Committee, Presbytery of Southern California



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