“Members Safe after Fires, Quakes,” Ensign, Oct. 1998, 78
Brushfires in northern Florida burned some 500,000 acres during June and July and forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 people, including all 420 members of the Bunnell Ward, Lake Mary Florida Stake. All members and missionaries were reported safe.
Bunnell Ward bishop Rick Singler reported that a ward family who lost their home was living in a house that had been loaned to them until insurance proceeds came through. “They’re suffering the strain of losing everything they owned,” he said.
According to James C. Watkins, president of the stake, one Church building was filled with smoke, and air-conditioning and air-purification systems were used to circulate it out. No other Church buildings were damaged, and meetings and activities have proceeded as usual. However, at least 2,000 acres of Church-owned Deseret Ranches of Florida were burned.
Firefighters from 48 states were sent to Florida, many of them arriving with no change of clothes. President Watkins said that fast-offering funds were used to provide firefighters with bottled water and new underwear and socks. “We did it without fanfare, and I’m not sure the firefighters even know where it came from,” he said.
Elsewhere in the world, on 17 July a 23-foot wall of water struck the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. No members were killed, and no missionaries were serving in the 20-mile disaster area. The tsunami resulted from an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale that struck about 12 miles off the coast. Several international agencies and the Australian government have been involved in providing humanitarian aid, and Church authorities approved the use of some Church funds for assistance.
An earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale struck Taiwan in July, but damage and casualties were limited and all members and missionaries were safe. Minor damage to one Church meetinghouse was reported.