InterVarsity workers evacuated from forest fire area in the U.S.

By May 15, 2007

USA (MNN) — Cooler weather in the western United States aids firefighters battling wildfires in California. They're
trying to surround a 4,200-acre wildfire in the rugged, unpopulated interior of
Santa Catalina Island while the resort's main town returned to life as the
blaze's threat eased.

The fire is expected to be encircled by tonight, according Los Angeles County
Fire Captain Andrew Olvera. One home and six businesses burned so far, but
no one has been seriously injured.


InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's
Campus by the Sea (CBS) is located on the island. Camp director Susie Veon says the camp is "singed
around the edges" but is intact.

InterVarsity's Associate Regional Director Tom Allen says,
"No structures were damaged [although] all the utilities were obviously
affected. There are no utilities, and the water lines going
to the camp have been burned."

It
appears as though the worst is over, since burned-out areas now offer a
fire break between the areas still burning and the camp location.

Five volunteers remain at the camp, checking on spotfires
around the canyons through the morning. Since restoring power to homes,
businesses, and public facilities is the first priority, power at the camp is
not expected to return until the middle of next week, at the earliest.

The camp is not available for groups that were scheduled
this weekend and next week, but Allen says those groups have located alternate
facilities.

Allen says, "The camp will be closed through the 24th
of May, so we'll have one other camp with some other InterVarsity chapter
students here in Los Angeles that'll be affected for the week of the
21st."

Most of the staff was evacuated from the camp to the city of
Avalon, three miles away, at around three o'clock Thursday afternoon. They had
about 30 minutes notice–just enough time to hose down the camp before they
lost power and phone communication. Evacuated at the same time were 130 middle
school students, mostly from Scottsdale, Arizona, who were attending the annual
Long Beach Marine Institute at CBS.

Luke Ditewig, a member of the camp staff team, was one of
those evacuated. "The last we heard before leaving the island (near 10pm), fire
had descended half way into our canyon and was moving slowly," he reported. "It
had moved further into Toyon, the canyon/camp next to us. It was quite surreal
leaving on the boat and seeing the island in flames, especially with the
largest flames seeming to be near our camp."

Hundreds of other Santa Catalina Island residents, tourists,
and campers were also evacuated, as wildfires swept through dry brush. Most of
the firefighting resources focused on Avalon, since that is the population
center of the island.

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