(See picture gallery below.) A spark from an unattended campfire fell into the dry leaves on Pinnacle Mountain in South Carolina on November 9, 2016. A wildfire was born, which eventually consumed more than 10,000 acres on Pinnacle Mountain and Table Rock Mountain. It quickly moved beyond the scope of local firefighters, so the South Carolina Forestry Department and National Guard moved in to help contain it with their Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters. The Wesleyan Camp was tapped as the staging area primarily because of the space for the helicopters to work from–for proximity to the fire for firefighters and their equipment and for Red Cross services.
It was immediately obvious that the camp could provide services to the firefighters who came from many parts of the country. There were up to 300 people needing food and lodging at some times. Greg Hayes, camp manager, assembled a core group of leadership including Michelle Bryant, Bob Moore, and Tammy Anthony who were responsible for three meals a day, snacks, coordinating the many volunteers who came daily to help, sorting and utilizing thousands of donations from the community, and use of the dining room for eating and meetings, and use of the 32 available rooms for sleeping.
For three weeks this core group and a few hearty volunteers were in the kitchen at 4 a.m. every day to prepare a hot breakfast to send the firefighters off each morning. And they were still there in the evening to welcome them back with a smile and a hot meal. A rough estimate of the food used for three weeks of breakfast included 1,020 dozen eggs, 815 pounds of bacon, 205 pounds of dry grits, 125 gallons of orange juice, 60 gallons of apple juice, 1,500 biscuits, 60 pounds of butter, and 500 gallons of coffee. And that was just breakfast!
We are grateful to the surrounding communities for responding to the call for donations of food, drinks, snacks, personal hygiene needs, gloves, socks, hats, and many other supplies so generously. School children wrote hundreds of cards to the firefighters. These cards were hung on the walls for all to read. Many churches, business organizations and individuals provided entire meals at different times. Two highlights were a Thanksgiving meal served with all the traditional foods on Thanksgiving Day and a Hispanic meal prepared and served by Pastor Frankie Rodriguez's church in appreciation of the many Hispanic firefighters from the West Coast.
Each morning after breakfast the forestry department held a briefing before anyone left for the mountain. Every briefing was closed with prayer. Thankfully there were no injuries and no structures were lost. We hope that we were a light for Jesus for the many who were away from home. Thank you to our four leaders who generously gave three weeks to serve 24/7, and to the numerous others who gave time and donations. Rev. Steve Stanley, a pastor from the South Carolina District, posted a comment when the fire was out and everyone was leaving: "So proud of you all! You made Jesus a lot clearer to some precious folk he loves."
Pictured: Firefighters attend the 7:00 a.m. briefing at Table Rock.Tabor building.