SALT LAKE CITY — With a half-dozen major fires scorching Southern Calfiornia through Friday night, the LDS Church reports all its members and missionaries are safe and accounted for, although a number of missionaries have been temporarily relocated.
"Local church leaders are assessing needs in the community and making plans to assist in local shelters and feeding locations this weekend," said a statement released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on its Mormonnewsroom.org site Friday evening. "Evaluations are ongoing as first responders work to control the fires."
The fires range from Santa Barbara south to San Diego — in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Diego and Riverside counties. Six large fires and several smaller ones had burned 160,000 acres as of midday Friday, with fire-fueling winds peaking at 50 mph projected through Sunday.
Several homes of Latter-day Saint individuals and families have been lost. While no LDS meetinghouses have been destroyed, a few have sustained minor smoke damage, according to Friday's statement.
Also, two LDS meetinghouses in the area are being used as temporary community centers, with the church reaching out to relief partners to see how it can be helpful in additional emergency-aid response.
The fires and smoke have forced the evacuation of some Mormon missionaries, including 30 young missionaries and three senior couples in the California Ventura Mission and six missionaries in the California Arcadia Mission. All have been temporarlly moved to other areas.
The California Ventura Mission president and wife — President David H. Nakken and Sister Stephanie Nakken — also have been evacuated from the mission home in Ventura.
"We pray for the first responders working tirelessly to fight the fires and for all those affected by this disaster," concluded the statement.
At least 500 structures had been consumed and some 200,000 people evacuated because of the fires. President Donald Trump issued a federal emergency declaration for the state, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security to help coordinate relief efforts.
The fires are the result of a combustible combination of late-year heat, overgrown and dried-out foliage, gusty Santa Ana winds and the region’s suburban sprawl.
Even before the start of the current blazes in the state’s southern region, the 2017 California wildfire season was already the state’s worst on record. Much of the devastation came in October in the northern counties of Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino and Butte, headlined by the Tubbs, Nuns, Atlas and Redwood Valley Complex fires.2 comments on this story
Headlines from some of the Deseret News’ coverage of the Northern California fires in October and the involvement of the LDS Church and its members: