AG Church Destroyed in Oregon Wildfire
A wildfire, believed to have been sparked by a transformer that went down in high winds, tore down the McKenzie River valley corridor Monday night, and reportedly destroyed the town of Blue River, Oregon, taking along with it Living Water Family Fellowship, an Assemblies of God church located two miles outside of Blue River.
Doug and Cheri Fairrington have led Living Water Family Fellowship for the past six years. Doug says that around 8 p.m. Monday the power went out. Shortly afterwards, they were informed they had an hour to evacuate. The fire started at mile marker 47, the church was five miles away at mile marker 42.
“The corridor is 50 miles long and one mile wide,” Fairrington explains. “The transformer provided the spark and an unusual east winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour [gusting to 60 mph] did the rest — it created a fire tunnel that literally gutted our area.”
Blue River is a community of about 800, with 60 people regularly attending Living Water Family Fellowship. Fairrington says that as of last night, all his congregants have been accounted for, though one couple was trapped in the middle of the high school track by the fire, but survived the night and were rescued. Most, if not all, of those attending the church have lost their homes.
“The church and the parsonage are gone,” says Fairrington, the pain of the sudden loss clearly evident in his voice. “The high school, post office . . ., all gone.” The church properties, however, were insured.
Fairrington also serves on the Pastoral Care Team for the Oregon Ministry Network. The church, with the help of RV MAPS Volunteers, was just weeks away from completing a $100,000 cabin/guest parsonage.
“We called it The Quiet Place,” Fairrington says. “The mission was to provide a place in the mountains for pastoral care for pastors needing healing and restoration.”
Fairrington confirms that they were able to get all the RVers hooked up and out of the area before the fire came through.
Bill Wilson, superintendent of the Oregon Ministry Network, has been keeping in contact with the Fairringtons.
“Doug has done a fabulous job in building a strong church in Blue River,” Wilson says. “He knows the culture. In this time that also includes COVID, political unrest, and financial uncertainty, I think of Isaiah 43[:2-5] where it tells about going through the fire, but also says, ‘I am with you.’”
Known as the Holiday Farm Fire as well as the McKenzie Fire, officials have told Fairrington that the fire could keep residents from being able to return to what remains of Blue River for several days.
Wilson, who lives near Portland, says that there are more than a dozen serious fires currently active in Oregon. “If I look north, it’s clear blue skies,” he says, “but to the south, it’s dark as midnight, with heavy grit in the sky from the wind-driven fire. At least a dozen or more of our pastors [in the Oregon Ministry Network] have had to evacuate their homes in the Cascade area, but so far no other churches have been lost.” Wilson also indicated that The Oregon Ministry Network is setting up a “fire relief” tab on its home page to aid ministers and ministries that are in need due to the fires.
Currently the Fairringtons, who have two adult children, are staying in a hotel in Albany, about 30 miles northwest of the fire. They report that pastors in the area have been generous in offering accommodations. Convoy of Hope is also working to connect with the Fairringtons to explore possible partnerships.