Turning a church into a command center

Mar 16, 2023 | Communities

The parking lot at the Lake Arrowhead Community Presbyterian Church was filled with front-end loaders and a variety of fire vehicles.

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The Palm Springs Fire Department was one of many that responded to the needs of the mountain following the storm.

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In addition to staging in the church parking lot, fire personnel used the building as their command center.

(Photos by Dale Johnstone)

Turning a church into a command center

By Mary-Justine Lanyon

The Rev. Dr. Bill Stanley wanted the space at his church, the Lake Arrowhead Community Presbyterian Church, to be put to good use during the response to what he is calling SNOVID-23.

He contacted OES through a church member. He called Lewis Murray, who put him in touch with a staff member from Supervisor Dawn Rowe’s office. He talked to Lt. Craig Harris, who said he would pass the word to County Fire.

Pastor Stanley isn’t sure which phone call yielded results but he went to take a look at the church, thinking he would have to hike in through the snow. Much to his surprise, it had been plowed to the top of the driveway. There was a fire truck there, waiting for front-end loaders to arrive and stage in the church parking lot.

The church became a command center for visiting fire departments. They were there from Ontario, Loma Linda, Palm Springs, Redlands, Huntington Beach, San Diego and beyond. The fire personnel were invited to use the church itself to regroup, enjoy some coffee, use the restrooms.

The parking lot was cleared on Sunday, March 5. The next morning it was filled with vehicles. The visiting fire personnel went out into the mountain communities and cleared gas lines, shoveled driveways, opened up access to homes by clearing doorways.

In addition to serving as a command center for the fire personnel, the church also became one of the many food distribution sites on the mountain. Volunteers cleaned out the Good Sam closet – from which they distribute food every month – and food started arriving from down the hill and other staging areas on the mountain.

“All the emergency personnel who have been here have been great,” Pastor Stanley said. “And they have been very appreciative of our supplying the space.”


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