The American Red Cross opened a Recovery Center at the Yarnell Community Presbyterian Church, on Monday, July 8th. At this location, volunteers are providing services, food and supplies to residents affected by the Yarnell Hill fire that began June 30, 2013. Church Pastor Paul D. Jones has been with this church for 18 years and was happy to host the Red Cross, as well as other service providers, to provide comfort and services to his community.
“My wife Ann and I were evacuated from our homes for a short time and we were very concerned about our tight-knit community,” said Jones. “Everyone in this community just wraps their arms around each other, so it’s wonderful to see the Red Cross come out and help our residents.”
Jones knows of six families from his congregation who lost their homes to the fires. He’s very concerned about 29 other families that he hasn’t yet seen.
Just as Red Cross volunteers where setting up the center, a car pulled into the church parking lot and Jones ran over to the car and began hugging everyone inside. “I’m so glad to see you, is everything ok?” Jones asked of the clearly distraught and tired family. “Please come inside and get something to eat and we’ll figure out what to do next.”
Jones says most of the Yarnell community is made up of retirees who come to enjoy the simple life and beautiful scenery. “Yarnell residents come from all over the county to live out their life. Our elementary school has a total of only 50 children,” says Jones. “We are a close community that supports each other; however, this is the first time in 15 years that we’ve had a fire reach our town.”
With a son as a Daisy Mountain firefighter and another son working for homeland security in Phoenix, Jones is familiar with the dangers that come with first responder work. “These people who give their lives are heroes beyond question,” said Jones. “Our community is now coping with the guilt we feel for the loss of firefighters who ran into harm’s way to save our things, so the recovery of this tragedy is much greater than things.”
The Yarnell Community Presbyterian Church congregation understands that healing comes through service. The church has created a fund to help those residents that may fall through the cracks and will continue to work with the Red Cross to provide easy access to services.