By day four of the Goodwin Fire burning out of control in the Prescott National Forest since June 24, residents of the town of Mayer received mandatory notices to evacuate.
That included roughly 100 families who regularly attend Mass at St. Joseph Mission along AZ-69 in Mayer. That entire passageway between Interstate 17 and State Route 169 remains closed.
Goodwin fire reaches Mayer, AZ,, this photo was taken at Black Canyon City AZ 6-27-17 Right off I-17 pic.twitter.com/chfrTcvxwE
— my life (@sandykstorm) June 28, 2017
Fr. Alphonsus Bakyil, SOLT, pastor of the mission which turned 102 this month, is safe at his other home in Camp Verde. He is also pastor of St. Frances Cabrini. He said many Mayer parishioners escaped by visiting adult children in Phoenix or Flagstaff.
Others, like Jesse Bais and his wife, headed to a friend’s place. They’re safe in Prescott Valley, the same place a Red Cross Shelter is set up at Bradshaw Mountain High School.
An estimated 60 people sought refuge there so far. Residents across Arizona took to Facebook and other social media to offer transportation of pets and boarding space.
“We just got a few clothes and medication and left,” said Bais, who lives about a mile from the church. He said area roadways looked like a parade was taking place.
Bais has lived in Mayer for 66 years and this is his first evacuation experience. He estimated about three hours between the time of the pre-evacuation notice and the mandatory one.
“There’s no news, so we don’t know about structures, how much damage is done … so we’re in limbo,” Bais said before noon June 28.
He expected winds to pick up in the afternoon. The Goodwin Fire began west of State Route 69 and crossed over June 27, but the latest maps show it did so north of the church.
St. Joseph churchgoers also come from nearby communities of Cordes Lakes, Spring Valley and Dewey-Humboldt. “Arizona’s country town,” which was incorporated as two communities in one, had cold fire ash dropping this morning. By midday, Dewey-Humboldt received a pre-evacuation notice.
Some parishioners at St. Germaine in Prescott Valley north of Route 69 as it heads west toward State Route 89 are also in pre-evacuated areas. Parish staff is monitoring the situation and ready to connect with parishioners through Flocknote and other means to offer assistance for those effected by an evacuation. Although still far away, the Goodwin fire is spreading north toward the area.
There are hundreds of firefighters and other crews on the scene — some estimate up to 1,000 — with the fire consuming more than 20,000 acres so far.
Representatives from Catholic Charities Community Services’ northern locations said they are on stand-by to offer local support if needed, specifically to offer assistance to the Red Cross.
Staff members are currently distributing fliers to the populations they serve to prevent long-term stays in the national forests. Many homeless individuals camp out for extended periods of time so staff are constantly reaching out to them to offer resources.
Rick Brust, team lead for Catholic Charities’ PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) program, said that his team promotes fire safety and restrictions.
“Since private land is hard to find and liability issues may arise regarding camping for the homeless, more affordable and subsidized housing is needed to offset the possibility of forest fires,” Brust said. “Most homeless individuals and families that decide to camp within our forested regions are for the most part, respectable of maintaining clean campsites and remain aware of the fire restrictions that may be in effect.
“Most of our fires that have blazed since my time working here have mainly been caused by recklessness of inexperienced weekend campers and/or lightning. However, it only takes a spark.”
UPDATE June 29
— KAZM News (@KAZMNews) June 29, 2017
“Right now, the Red Cross is saying they have everything they need,” said Darrel Reynolds, site director for Catholic Charities in Prescott. “The community has responded very, very well to the need of help.”
A couple of people did stop by his office in need of food as a result of evacuation orders. Staff connected them to a nearby food bank.
Reynolds praised the work of firefighters. One June 27, he recalled watching the fire come over the mountain with a clear view of it a few miles from his front window.
“The plume this morning was smaller than it was yesterday,” he said.
UPDATE June 30
Bais and his wife were among those who were allowed to return home June 29 when evacuation orders for Mayer were lifted. Several major road closures remained in effect and many, like Bais, were without power for the first couple of hours. Even as of last night, he said about 100 residents were without power.
Bais also reported a friend on the west end of town where he took some pictures lost his place.