The Wolverine fire in northeastern Washington state continues to burn near Holden Village, an outdoor ministry related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The community, established more than 50 years ago, is located in a former mining town in the North Cascade Mountains above Lake Chelan.
Firefighters have managed to keep the fires from spreading into Holden Village by creating back-burns—controlled fires that are set to burn in the opposite direction in order to stop the advancing fire.
Chuck Hoffman and Peg Carlson-Hoffman are the co-executive directors of Holden Village. In an Aug. 17 blog post, Chuck Hoffman described the efforts of two hotshot crews brought in to fight the fires.
“Back-burns here are almost complete, and we maintain hope that they will hold the fire as it burns its way around the village, keeping Holden safe. The hotshot crews feel good about the work being done, but by its nature, fire is unpredictable. So we continue to wait and be vigilant in our tending to the village,” Hoffman wrote.
On Aug. 1 about 360 people were evacuated from Holden Village, including villagers and mine remediation workers. Since 2013, the village has housed up to 290 contractors involved in mine cleanup work during the summer months.
Hoffman remains in Holden Village with four staff members, while Carlson-Hoffman and about 20 others are staying at Celebration Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in East Wenatchee, Wash. Members of Lake Chelan Lutheran Church in Chelan, another ELCA congregation, also cared for Holden Village evacuees until they were evacuated when the fires spread into Chelan.
“Here in the village, the group has grown close, trusting and knowing that we are linked to one another,” wrote Hoffman in his blog post. “Peg and I feel the same link with our evacuees in Chelan and with villagers across the world. We feel honored to serve as your director team and are grateful for your love and support. Together we will find our way through this time of challenge and celebrate what is yet to unfold in the life and ministry of Holden Village.”
The Wolverine fire has consumed about 40,000 acres in northeast Washington and, as of Aug. 17, about 30 percent of the wildfire had been contained. A total of 23 fires are burning throughout the state, destroying at least 32 homes. Thousands have been evacuated and more than 40 homes and businesses have yet to be accounted for. Wildfires are also burning in California, Idaho and Oregon.
“We have been grateful for all the prayers from around the world and inspired by the way our faith community has supported us with prayer,” Hoffman said in an email exchange. “The good news is that the early flowers that come after a fire are already present. A visible sign of renewal … it is a privilege to witness God’s creation in this way.”