The strong Santa Ana winds are the source of the most recent and devastating fires to affect California. The Thomas Fire has consumed over 55,000 acres in Ventura County and the surrounding areas, leading to the evacuation of over 27,000 people, and already destroying over 150 structures, including an apartment building and a psychiatric hospital.

Several parishioners from Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Camarillo, CA have already been evacuated, and one family with small children has lost their home and all their personal belongings. There are also a small number of parishioners from Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara who have been evacuated, and others from Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Northridge, CA who are in danger as the Creek Fire in Sylmar is threatening their homes and livelihoods. A third fire in Santa Clarita, the Rye Fire, just began this morning, but it is anticipated to grow due to the high winds in the area that are expected to continue to escalate for the next few days. Because of the rapid extensiveness of the fire coupled with the powerful winds, there are intermittent power outages throughout the area, which is also affecting mobile phone service.

His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos is in the immediate area having just celebrated the Feast of Saint Barbara in Santa Barbara, and is preparing to celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas at the Saint Nicholas parish in Northridge. “To be here and witness the extreme devastation in such a short time is very intense. Our clergy are working with local agencies and IOCC to offer support where they can, and I am very proud of the way they have mobilized so efficiently to support the needs of their parishioners and the entire community” stated His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos. “We call upon God for His protection, for the strengthening of those fighting the fires, for the calming of the wind, and for the comfort of all those who are suffering.”

In addition to parishioners from the communities of Camarillo, Northridge and Santa Barbara, the OCA Monastery of Saint Barbara in Santa Paula was evacuated last night. Abbess Victoria and the sisters have moved to a safe area, and were able to take several icons and relics with them. Rev. Father Gary Kyriacou from Saint Demetrios in Camarillo has been trying to assist them in finding out the status of their Monastery facilities.

As additional information becomes available, the Metropolis of San Francisco will provide updates. Your prayers are most needed and appreciated!

Photo Credit: Michael Owen Baker / For the LA Times