Responding to Wildfires in East TennesseePosted: November 29, 2016 Filed under: Bishop's Blog 1 Comment
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Across the Southeast in recent days, weeks, and months disasters have visited our people. From flooding in South Carolina and North Carolina, our friends and neighbors have been displaced.
Now, in East Tennessee and North Carolina, forest fires are raging and threatening homes, churches and communities.
Let us remember and reach out in tangible ways to bring our support. In this Advent Season, may we be proactive in the following ways:
First, as always, pray. Prayers for all those affected are needed. Pray for all of those who are responding, emergency personnel, all those affected, survivors, tourist, business owners, those having to evacuate, everyone! Please also be in prayer for the Holston Conference of the UMC as they respond to their hurting neighbors.
Second, Financial Donations: Holston Conference will also accept financial donations with checks made to “Holston Conference” and “Holston Wildfire #864” on the memo line.
Mail to: Holston Conference, P.O. Box 850, Alcoa, TN 37701. Online giving is also possible at Holston.org/wildfires.
Below is the link that has been sent to their churches so they know what churches are safe.
GATLINBURG FIRE: UNITED METHODISTS CHECK FOR DAMAGED CHURCHES, EXPLAIN HOW TO HELP
By Annette Spence
Photo above: Fire comes within two miles of Wears Valley United Methodist Church on Monday night. Photo at top of page: Donations to help firefighters begin to arrive at the Alcoa Conference Center.
ALCOA, Tenn. (Nov. 29, 2016) – Holston Conference leaders are asking United Methodists to be prepared but patient while waiting for information about how best to help victims of a wildfire that reportedly destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses since last night in Gatlinburg and other parts of Sevier County, Tenn.
Holston leaders are also checking on churches, parsonages and members in the tourist region now turned disaster area and have released a list of properties that are currently safe and undamaged.
“Our emergency person is in touch with TEMA. They’re not allowing anyone into Gatlinburg so we don’t know yet what the needs are,” said the Rev. Charles Maynard, superintendent of 64 churches in the Maryville District, including those in the wildfire area.
Maynard said he has communicated with pastors of these churches and the related parsonages, all of which are safe:
First Pigeon Forge UMC
Burnett Memorial UMC
Walden’s Creek UMC
Union Grove UMC
Pleasant Hill UMC (Sevierville)
Wears Valley UMC
Cedar Bluff UMC (Sevierville)
First Sevierville UMC
Murphy’s Chapel UMC
In Loudon County, where another fire is burning, Bethel United Methodist Church is safe, despite inaccurate reports on social media, Maynard said. Another fire is burning in Monroe County. After initial concerns, Maynard learned later today that First Tellico Plains UMC and Ironsburg UMC are currently safe.
The Rev. Mike Sluder, Holston director of connectional ministries, said information will be forthcoming on immediate needs and long-term relief for fire victims in Sevier County and other areas.
Earlier today, the Alcoa Conference Center (217 S. Rankin Road, Alcoa, Tenn.) announced that it would accept donations of these items to provide aid to firefighters. Office hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.:
“If you are not near the Alcoa Conference Center, consult your local Red Cross for immediate needs,” Sluder said. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has contacted Holston’s disaster-relief director and has offered financial aid, Sluder said.
Holston Conference will also accept financial donations with checks made to “Holston Conference” and “Holston Wildfire #864” on the memo line. Mail to: Holston Conference, P.O. Box 850, Alcoa, TN 37701. Online giving is also possible at Holston.org/wildfires.
“Right now we are not sure of all the needs,” Sluder said. “As we transition into long-term recovery I am sure some of the funds will be available to help supply work teams with needed relief supplies.”
Maynard said he will provide more information about other church properties and church members’ homes soon.
On Monday night, The Connexion housed 35 evacuees from the Sevier County area, most from the Ministerio del Espiritu Santo congregation, said the Rev. Susana Lopez. She said The Connexion will remain open tonight for residents in need of shelter.
We are stronger together when we can respond faithfully to tragedy in our communities and congregations.
Yes, the Gatlinburg fire is a tragedy, bun not unforeseen. Tennessee Division of Forestry employees have been trying to tell county planning commissions, county commissioners, and other local officials that poor planning set up the disasters we have been reading about. Steep and narrow roads that fire trucks can’t access, only one road to get in or out, buildings with decks that hang over forest fuels, etc. have all contributed to a tragedy far worse than it needed to be.
Retired Sr. Urban Forester, TN Dept of Agriculture, Forestry Division