The nuns of Saint Barbara Monastery here were evacuated, along with their neighbors, after an explosive brush fire broke out late Monday, December 4, 2017. By early Tuesday morning, the rapidly moving blaze had spread from about 50 acres to an estimated 31,000 acres, forcing thousands of area residents to flee.
What has been named the “Thomas Fire” began in a canyon near Santa Paula, about 65 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. In a predawn announcement issued by local fire officials on Tuesday morning, December 5, it was reported that “the fire remains out of control and structures continue to be threatened throughout the fire area.”
“On Monday—the Feast of Saint Barbara—the patronal feast day Divine Liturgy was celebrated for the first time in the monastery’s recently consecrated chapel,” explained His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West. “The 25th anniversary of the monastery’s establishment also was observed. A few hours later, as Mother Victoria and the sisters were sitting down to dinner, the fire, driven by high winds, broke out within a mile of the monastery, forcing evacuation to surrounding communities.
“It appears that the buildings survived,” Archbishop Benjamin reported on Tuesday morning. “But, as no one can actually go to the monastery due to evacuation efforts, we do not know for sure.”
Updates will be posted as they are received. Prayers are requested for the monastic community and all those in the fire’s path who have already been affected or who remain threatened by the disaster.