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Photo Credit: National Weather Service
Photo Credit: National Weather Service
Photo Credit: National Weather Service
Photo Credit: National Weather Service
World News

US wildfires: 'The Church has stepped up but we really need prayers'

by Tola Mbakwe

A Christian woman living in Oregon has pleaded for people to pray for those impacted by wildfires raging on the west coast. 

At least 36 people are known to have died in Oregon, Washington and California and tens of thousands of people have fled their homes as the fast-moving flames turned neighbourhoods to nothing but charred rubble and burned-out cars.

Katie Kirschner told her Premier family has managed to stay safe but others haven't been so fortunate.

"I was definitely worrying for the huge amount of smoke that came in on that Monday night," she said. "The sky was red, it was orange. I became a little anxious. I prepared a few things in case we needed to leave. Luckily, we didn't, we've been perfectly safe. But my husband, he works in construction and one of his bosses, his house burned down.

"There's been loss of life. The first report we heard was a grandmother and grandson, 12 years old, who were trapped in their car along the highway trying to escape the fire. They were found by firefighters. So it's very devastating, so tragic."

The wildfires are dividing President Donald Trump and the states' Democratic leaders over how to prevent blazes from becoming more frequent and destructive. Scientists and others on the front lines say it is not as simple as blaming either climate change or the way land is managed.

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington have all said global warming is priming forests for wildfires as they become hotter and drier.

But during a visit on Monday to California, Mr Trump pointed to how states manage forests and said: "It will start getting cooler, just you watch."

Scientists say wildfires are all but inevitable, and the main drivers are plants and trees drying out due to climate change and more people living closer to areas that burn. And while forest thinning and controlled burns are solutions, they have proven challenging to implement on the scale needed to combat those threats.

Kirchner commended firefighters who are working tirelessly to fight the blazes. 

"They fought all that they could," she said. "On the news I saw that a fireman said 'we were working for 50 hours straight'. And so they don't even have time to answer important phone calls from their own family members."

She also commended the Church for doing what they can to help people in need. 

"They're on top of it," she said. "There have been so many stories of good Samaritans, of people helping neighbours. Especially with these rural communities, a lot of them have animals, they have horses, they have livestock, sheep, goats and chickens. So people are getting into these areas with trailers in order to get people's livestock out. People are helping in any way they can."

Oregon governor Kate Brown on Monday asked for a Presidential Disaster Declaration, saying it would bring much-needed resources to Oregon's response and recovery efforts.

Kirchner has urged people to pray for people who've lost everything in the fires. 

"We really need prayer for the rebuilding, just emotionally, spiritually and mentally. [Pray] for people who narrowly escaped and people who prepared, went back and found everything gone. 

"It's horrific to imagine the whole loss of life. I know that they're material possessions, but these are people's lives, memories, precious things, heirlooms and their livelihoods, especially in this area."

Listen to Premier's interview with Katie Kirschner here.

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