California fire update: Vacaville Saints in the clear, 5 lost homes

Ash continues to fall from the sky in the Vacaville California Stake, but President Howard Haynes believes the wildfire is no longer a threat for Latter-day Saints in the area. 

Five Latter-day Saint families in Vacaville lost their homes last week to the massive blaze stretching from Napa to Yolo County, known as the “LNU Lightning Complex fire” — one of many multifire complexes in California that continue to burn. 

As of Aug. 25, wildfires in California have killed at least seven people and scorched nearly 1,300 homes and other buildings, the Associated Press reported. Lightning strikes that started many of the fires have stopped, and temperatures have cooled in the region for the time being.

A burned car on the property of Michael Goetz, a Church member who lives in the countryside just north of Vacaville, California. The wildfire came through his property on Aug. 19, 2020, but his home was not destroyed.
A burned car on the property of Michael Goetz, a Church member who lives in the countryside just north of Vacaville, California. The wildfire came through his property on Aug. 19, 2020, but his home was not destroyed. Credit: Michael Goetz

Though two of the three Vacaville stake meetinghouses were in evacuated neighborhoods, neither were damaged. No Latter-day Saint meetinghouses in the stake were damaged, President Haynes said. 

“A couple of other families had significant structures on their property destroyed, but their homes survived,” he said. 

Aside from those with homes or structures destroyed, six families have yet to return to their homes because they are without power, water or another utility, he added. However, “all of those that are displaced have had their immediate needs of shelter and other immediate needs met.”

President Haynes expressed gratitude for how members in his stake have fared. “Our stake is appreciative of the outreach that others have made to us, the offers to help, and certainly the prayers that have been offered on our behalf,” he said. “I know that our stake has felt that outreach and has been appreciative of it.”

Following the LNU Lightning Complex fires, a sign reading "Vaca Strong" adorns a charred hillside in Vacaville, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.
Following the LNU Lightning Complex fires, a sign reading “Vaca Strong” adorns a charred hillside in Vacaville, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. Credit: Noah Berger, Associated Press

Church members in the nearby Fairfield California Stake have since returned to their homes after major evacuations on Aug. 19, President James Edman said. The poor air quality and smoke has been affecting some members. 

“The fires came very, very close to Fairfield, and we were evacuated for a couple of days. Fortunately, no structures ended up being destroyed. No lives were lost. Everybody was taken care of that needed a place to stay,” he reported.

“We’re very grateful to all the firefighters who kept us safe. … The winds did not pick up, and we were lucky. That made a big difference in how we were able to fare.”

The fire is no longer an imminent threat for his stake, President Edman said, but “fires can change real fast. … We’ll always stay vigilant.”