A wildfire last week that destroyed more than 4,000 acres of dry brush on California’s Santa Catalina island threatened Campus by the Sea (CBS), which has been a vital InterVarsity training center for much of the past half century. The raging flames got as close as the ridge-top overlooking the camp on Thursday evening, May 10, just hours after the camp was evacuated. But Friday morning camp director Susie Veon was able to report that although it looked “singed around the edges,” the camp was intact, covered by a light layer of ash.
“We are so thankful that all are safe and that God kept the fires back from our structures and main camp,” she reported later. “The passage in Job kept going through my mind and my prayers where God speaks and says to the waters, ‘this far you may come and no further, this is where your proud waves stop.’ He spoke the same to the fire for CBS. ‘This far you may come and no further. This is where your proud flames stop!’”
Over the weekend, airborne fire crews dropped water on persistent hot spots and most of the evacuated residents returned to the nearby town of Avalon. Officials pronounced the fire nearly contained.
There is no power at Campus by the Sea yet. Power is not expected to be restored until late next week at the earliest. Fire also melted the camp’s main water line. But the staff has returned from evacuation and has begun cleaning up the ash. Staff are also packing up the belongings of 135 middle school students who were participating in the annual Long Beach Marine Institute at CBS last week. The students had only time to grab warm clothing and their wallets before they were evacuated on Thursday afternoon.
One of the prime concerns now is protecting the season’s food supply, which arrived by barge about a month ago. A larger generator is being brought in to power the camp, particularly the food freezer. Last Thursday evening’s dinner for 160 remained fresh in the refrigerator and was delivered to firefighters in Avalon on Sunday.
“We have plenty of food and have gas to cook on,” Susie reports. “I am proud of my team. They were terrific and did a great job handling campers, staying in touch and – for those that stayed – helping watch and pray and be vigilant. At night we hang around by flashlight and talk and catch each other up. We have family time and prayer time. We are so thankful that all are safe and that God kept the fires back from our structures and main camp.”
Campus by the Sea is not expected to reopen until at least May 24. InterVarsity groups which were scheduled to use CBS this week have been able to find alternate facilities. News reports say that one home and about a half dozen businesses in the Avalon area received the most significant damage from the fire. Campus by the Sea is located at Gallagher’s Beach, about three miles northwest of Avalon.
Report on CBS evacuation
Los Angeles Times news coverage
San Diego Union Tribune – Associated Press news coverage
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