As wildfires burn in southwest US, Catholics offer prayer, support

By Maggie Maslak

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Smoke plume from the 416 Fire near Durango, CO on June 1, 2018. Credit: US Forest Service, Public Domain.

As ongoing wildfires rage through the southwest region of the United States, local dioceses are offering their prayers and support for victims.

“I pray for all those in harm’s way and for all first responders and volunteers fighting the fire,” said Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe in a June 1 statement.

“The Archdiocese of Santa Fe joins all in prayer and stands ready to support those who are affected by this emergency,” he continued.

In New Mexico, the Ute Park Fire has forced thousands into evacuation in and around the town of Cimarron, near the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. The fire, which was filtering into the town from nearby Ute Park, has burned 36,000 acres since it began on May 31.

Mandatory evacuations were set in place on Sunday, and one local priest, Rev. Dom Mayeul Thu, was among those evacuated. Archbishop Wester offer particular prayers for “those who have been evacuated, that they are able to seek shelter during this time.”

On Monday, some relief was offered to locals as the fire became 25 percent contained and the mandatory evacuation orders were lifted. Concerns remain, however, regarding the smoke, air quality, and hot weather in the forecast.

A 1,400-acre fire is also raging in Agua Dulce, California, just northeast of Los Angeles. Multiple homes have been under mandatory evacuation, and more than 350 firefighters are trying to contain the blaze. As of Wednesday afternoon, the fire is 30 percent contained.

Colorado is also experiencing a 2,400-acre wildfire near Durango, dubbed the 416 Fire, where nearly 825 homes have been under evacuation since the start of the blaze on Friday. As of Wednesday afternoon, the fire remains approximately 10 percent contained.

The Diocese of Pueblo has seen a tremendous outpouring of prayer and support for the victims of the blaze, according to Michelle Hill, the director of development for the diocese.

Hill told EWTN News they have heard many “stories of those who immediately step up to help when fires threaten.”

“A non-parishioner who came to our food bank at St. Columba Parish in Durango offered to give her bag of food to someone who is being impacted by the fire,” Hill said.

“Some of our parishioners in the Bayfield area have offered space in their homes to house anyone without a place to stay. The spirit of charity is always alive in Southern Colorado,” she continued.

While local communities are lending a helping hand during the wildfire, Hill said the diocese has also been praying for those affected by the fires and remains grateful that no lives have been lost.

“We continue to pray for an end to the drought conditions that cause such extreme concern and necessitate burn bans,” Hill said.

“We are thankful as well that the recent fires in northern Pueblo County and Baca County were contained and that all those in the area are safe.”
 
 

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