UPDATE (Aug. 2, 2018) — As mandatory evacuations continue to be lifted, the American Red Cross has consolidated its shelter at Simpson University into its shelter at Shasta College.
REDDING, Calif.—As thousands of firefighters battle the most destructive wildfire in Shasta County history, Simpson University is serving as an evacuation and rest center for displaced residents and first responders.
The Carr Fire, which started July 23 near Whiskeytown Lake west of Redding, has burned more than 100,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,100 structures. More than 39,000 people have been forced from their homes.
Simpson University, located in northeast Redding, has not been in imminent danger. On July 27, the university’s James M. Grant Student Life Center opened as an evacuation center for the American Red Cross, with about 160 beds. It is one of several evacuation centers in the North State.
The university has also offered residence hall lodging to firefighters, law enforcement, traveling nurses, and California National Guard members from throughout California and other regions. More than 700 emergency responders have stayed overnight on campus, said Paul Davis, director of campus operations.
More than 100 businesses have donated food, beverages, and goods at the Simpson location, as have numerous community residents. About 40 volunteers have been helping sort through donations each day, said Ashley Cobbler (below center), a Simpson University staff member organizing the drop-offs, which will be redistributed in the community.
Simpson President Norm Hall, who started in his new role June 1 after moving from Illinois, has posted regular video updates on the university’s Facebook page, thanking the community, firefighters and law enforcement, as well as updating students, alumni and others. The university will welcome new and returning undergraduates in late August and early September.
“At Simpson University campus, we’re continuing to serve, love people and to pray,” he said. A “prayer tent” was set up outside the Grant Center for those wishing to have someone pray with or for them.
On July 30, Dr. Hall spoke with KCNR radio host Carl Bott about the university’s efforts.
“As you know, Simpson has an over 100-year-old tradition of reaching out to those in need,” he said, referencing the school’s “Gateway to World Service” motto. “As soon as the fire began, Paul Davis, who is in charge of campus operations, began to make calls to the Red Cross and fire agencies and police to say, hey, we’re here to serve. Almost immediately we began to serve as more or less a hotel for CHP, Cal Fire, and the sheriff’s department, and then out-of-town fire engines.”
Student workers on campus for the summer have been changing sheets and cleaning bathrooms in the residence halls, he said, “doing everything we can to be supporters of the women and men who are on the front lines.”
Dr. Hall has also encouraged university staff, faculty and students in regular email updates.
“Friends, this unprecedented crisis has allowed us to live out our mission in new wineskins,” he shared in a campus email. “Thank you for your continued prayers, calls, gifts and physical service.”
Some Simpson employees have lost their homes. In addition to offering displaced employees housing on campus, the university has also set up a fund to help employees in need. Donations to that fund can be made at https://connect.simpsonu.edu/we-care-fund.
How to help:
-Stop by Simpson University to help sort through donations outside the Grant Center.
-Apply to become a volunteer with the Red Cross at http://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer – step1.
For fire news:
The Redding Chamber of Commerce shared the following ways to contribute financially to all fire victims:
– Shasta County Carr Fire Recovery Campaign – Fundraiser created by local organizations in partnership
– Community Disaster Relief Fund – Shasta Regional Community Foundation
– Carr Fire Fund – Tri Counties Bank
– Carr Fire Fund – Northern Valley Catholic Social Service
Simpson University, established in 1921, is a Christian university offering undergraduate, graduate, and teaching credential programs. The university celebrated its 25th year in Redding and the completion of a Science and Nursing Center in 2014. Academic programs include ASPIRE, a degree-completion program geared toward working adults with both on-campus and online course offerings; the Betty M. Dean School of Nursing, A.W. Tozer Seminary, the School of Education, and the School of Graduate Professional Studies. For information about the university, or to arrange a campus visit, call 1-888-9-SIMPSON or visit simpsonu.edu.