Oklahoma Baptists are making a huge impact in the devastation from Oklahoma Wildfires through disaster relief (DR) volunteers and a wildfire relief fund.

“Our feeding units have been serving victims of the fires and volunteers during this critical time, and we have a massive ash clean up plan in place,” said Sam Porter, DR director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). “For those wishing to help, we have established the ‘Oklahoma Wildfire Relief’ fund at bgco.org.“

BGCO DR volunteers, who, for the past month, have been involved with ash clean up in Colorado and New Mexico, are now actively involved in Oklahoma.

“Our volunteers are highly trained and are motivated to make a difference because of their faith in the Lord,” Porter said. “Oklahoma Baptists will continue to help in Colorado while we actively work and minister here.”

To donate to the BGCO’s non-profit DR ministry, visit bgco.org/wildfirerelief.

In addition to the donation link at BGCO, tax-deductible gifts may be mailed to BGCO, Attn: Oklahoma Wildfire Relief, 3800 N. May Ave., Oklahoma City, 73112.

“. . . our fellow Oklahomans have been struck by destructive wildfires. Oklahoma Baptist DR volunteers have been at work from the beginning to provide meals and assessment,” BGCO Executive Director-Treasurer Anthony L. Jordan wrote in a special appeal to Oklahoma Baptists Aug. 7. “Now they are helping clear the rubble from home sites for those who have lost so much. Our volunteers will not only offer help for the physical needs but be assured they will also offer the love of Jesus Christ.

“We have established an Oklahoma Wildfire Relief Fund, to be used under the direction of our disaster relief office, to meet the needs of families touched by the devastating fires. Your dollars will support the work of our volunteers as they meet the needs of those who have lost so much.

“In times past, Oklahoma Baptists have helped establish the ‘Oklahoma Standard’ for help during a time of hurt. We will do so in the midst of this tragedy.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin also listed the BGCO’s Oklahoma Wildfire Relief Fund as a worthy group for citizens to give toward.

“The BGCO is doing essential work to support first responders and victims of wildfires across the state of Oklahoma. My thanks go out to all of their volunteers and their many members who are lending a helping hand during this difficult time,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID) is coordinating with other state agencies and charitable organizations to provide assistance to wildfire victims.

“This is a major disaster,” said Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak at a news conference in Mannford Aug. 7. “It will take a coordinated effort, over a long period of time, to help these communities get back on their feet.”

Doak invited Porter to speak at the news conference, along with officials from Oklahoma Emergency Management (OEM), the American Red Cross and insurance industry executives to update the media and the public on the response effort.

“We know that at least 340 insurance claims for wildfires have been filed statewide,” Doak reported. “But many victims didn’t have home insurance. We want to make sure both the insured and uninsured get all the help they need, as quickly as they need.”

The BGCO’s now experienced ash out teams can help those who lost their homes and outbuildings and didn’t have insurance coverage. They are equipped with chainsaws, Bobcats and other tools to help sift through ashes and remove debris.

“We’re going to be there to help you statewide, from Creek County to Cleveland County, Payne County and Oklahoma County,” Porter said. “Please contact us because we want to help you. We will have teams to help especially non-insured or under-insured families.”

He added that victims should request help through their local Southern Baptist church.

Porter has set up DR Incident Command Centers Near Mannford, First to help minister to fire victims in Creek County, where a BGCO DR feeding unit has been set up, and, at his request, the North American Mission Board dispatched one of its mobile Incident Command Centers, which has been situated at Twelve Corners Church in Union Association near Noble to minister to fire victims in Cleveland County.

“Our initial assessment in Cleveland County found 26 homeowners needing ash out help, with only three of them having had insurance coverage,” Porter said.

Mike Maxwell, a BGCO DR assessor in the Creek County area, reported similar results, noting that there were 30-40 structures reported destroyed near Glencoe.

“This is going to be a marathon response, not a sprint,” Porter said.

At its annual gathering of students Aug. 10-11 at the Youth Evangelism Conference (YEC) in Tulsa, the BGCO collected a special offering to help with Oklahoma wildfire relief.

“The wildfires have affected some of the students who were planning on coming to YEC, and so we felt a need to help those students as well as others who have lost their homes in the wildfires,” said Norman Flowers, BGCO student evangelism and mobilization specialist.