PHOENIX — Residents of the town of Mayer, including roughly 100 families who regularly attend Mass at St. Joseph Mission, were allowed to return home June 29 after evacuating for a time because of the Goodwin Fire burning in the nearby Prescott National Forest.

The fire started June 24, and as of early June 30 had burned more than 25,000 acres and was 43 percent contained, with more than 750 firefighters on the scene. News reports said the blaze had forced an estimated 7,500 people from their homes and campsites.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service told reporters the Arizona fire was expected to grow because of high winds. At least one wildfire was burning in each of four other states — California, Washington, Utah and New Mexico — following a heat wave in the Southwest. The blazes were fueled by high winds.

Father Alphonsus Bakyil, who is pastor of the 102-year-old St. Joseph Mission, said many Mayer parishioners escaped by visiting adult children in Phoenix or Flagstaff. The priest, a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, was safe at his other home in Camp Verde. He also is pastor of St. Frances Cabrini.

Others, like Jesse Bais and his wife, headed to a friend’s place. They were safe in Prescott Valley, where a Red Cross shelter was set up at a high school.

An estimated 60 people had sought refuge there so far. Residents across Arizona took to Facebook and other social media to offer transportation of pets and boarding space.

“We just got a few clothes and medication and left,” said Bais, who lives about a mile from the church.

Bais has lived in Mayer for 66 years and this was his first evacuation experience. He estimated about three hours between the time of the pre-evacuation notice and the mandatory one.

“There’s no news, so we don’t know about structures, how much damage is done … so we’re in limbo,” Bais said midday June 28.

Parish staff at St. Germaine in Prescott Valley north of Route 69 were monitoring the situation and stood ready to connect with parishioners through Flocknote, a text and email messaging service for churches, and other means to offer assistance for those affected by an evacuation. Although still far away, the Goodwin fire was spreading north toward the area.

Representatives from Catholic Charities Community Services’ northern locations said they were on standby to offer local support if needed, specifically to offer assistance to the Red Cross.

Staff members were distributing fliers to the populations they serve to prevent long-term stays in the national forests. Many homeless individuals camp out for extended periods of time so staff are constantly reaching out to them to offer resources.

Rick Brust is a team lead for Catholic Charities’ PATH program, or Projects for Assistance in Transition From Homelessness. He told The Catholic Sun, Phoenix’s diocesan newspaper, that his team promotes fire safety and restrictions.

“Since private land is hard to find and liability issues may arise regarding camping for the homeless, more affordable and subsidized housing is needed to offset the possibility of forest fires,” Brust said. “Most homeless individuals and families that decide to camp within our forested regions are for the most part, respectable of maintaining clean campsites and remain aware of the fire restrictions that may be in effect.

“Most of our fires that have blazed since my time working here have mainly been caused by recklessness of inexperienced weekend campers and/or lightning,” he said. “However, it only takes a spark.”

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Hammel is a staff writer at The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix.