SBTC Disaster Relief continues in Panhandle

FRITCH—Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers continue to minister to the victims of the May 11 wildfire that swept through the Double Diamond residential district located near the Lake Meredith National Recreational Area near Fritch in the Texas Panhandle.

“The fire destroyed 225 homes, 143 outbuildings and more than 100 vehicles,” reported Jim McBride in the Amarillo Globe-News.

SBTC DR efforts are focused on four neighborhoods in the Double Diamond area, said Daniel White, SBTC white hat or incident commander for the first two weeks of the combined SBTC/Texas Baptist Men (TBM) relief effort. SBTC and TBM are coordinating joint efforts in the area. White hat responsibilities rotated to a TBM coordinator over the Memorial Day weekend. 

DR volunteers working out of the First Southern Baptist Church of Fritch included 25 SBTC men and women. Local helpers were also assisting the Baptist DR effort.

SBTC workers including work crews, feeding teams, operations personnel, assessment specialists, clean up and recovery crews, incident commanders and chaplains, White said. Some SBTC volunteers like Jim and Carolyn Partlow of Nacogdoches, members of Lufkin’s Harmony Hill Baptist, arrived at the beginning of the DR effort and plan to stay until all teams leave, White said.

SBTC personnel are using the church kitchen and a feeding unit brought from Pampa, to provide meals for local volunteers and the more than 50 out of town workers staying at First Southern Baptist of Fritch, White said.

Relief efforts have focused on “ash-out,” the clearing of burned debris and ashes from properties. Volunteers have also helped residents sift through the ashes for personal items and even the remains of beloved pets. SBTC chaplain assessors have led victims to Christ and seen many others make reaffirmations of faith.

Many of the homes destroyed were vacation or weekend homes.

“About 40 percent of the homes belong to locals; 60 percent are vacation or summer rental properties,” said Monte Furrh of Bonham, leader of the SBTC’s DR team “C” of skid steer operators, ash-out workers, and chaplains including Tim White, pastor of Second Baptist Church of Lamesa.

“We’ve been doing ash-out, clearing where the homes have burned and all that’s left lying on the slab are the roofs; all that’s left are the ashes of their belongings,” said Furrh, describing the effort.

“The work is hard but it is good,” said Elmer Reedy of Kemp, a member of Furrh’s team.

“We are here to serve the Lord, whether it be talking to the victims or cleaning up the ashes of their homes,” said Furrh, who added that he had met with homeowners personally and had even talked to others from Oklahoma over the phone.

As of May 20, DR workers had received 91 requests for assistance; 26 work orders had been completed, with 65 to go, said Jim Richardson, SBTC director of disaster relief.

Daniel White, pastor of Sylvester Baptist Church in Sylvester, expected the number of work orders to increase over the Memorial Day weekend. White assumed white hat duties from the SBTC’s Darryl Cason on Monday, May 19.

“I think we may have quite a few work orders come in on Saturday from homeowners who are working this week and haven’t been able to be out there to see what is being done,” White predicted. “We may get an even greater influx of orders after that.”

While non-profit relief agencies such as the Salvation Army, American Red Cross and other partners refer victims to Baptist DR headquarters, many of the requests for help come from people who have seen the yellow-hatted DR workers in the field, White said.               

“Mostly it’s been through word of mouth,” White said, noting that much of his job as white hat involved coordinating matters with church and local officials in the command center.

“The teams are reporting really good news when they come in each evening,” White said. “Several affected by the fire have prayed to receive Christ as savior and others have been encouraged in their Christian walk. The local church is ready to step in and help these people, some of whom have not been in church in a while.”

The work is expected to continue at least through the week of May 26-31, and perhaps into the first week of June,  White said













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