PEOPLE

FAITH AND FIRE


The rebuilding of Living Water Family Fellowship.
By Austin Johnson


On the evening of September 7, 2020, a series of strong winds tore through the McKenzie River Valley corridor causing a tree to down some power lines near the Holiday Farm RV Resort in Blue River, Oregon. The downed power lines allegedly started what would become known as the Holiday Farm Fire.

The immense blaze that followed spread across 173,000 acres of Oregon woodland and destroyed over 450 homes before reaching a containment level of 96 percent on Oct. 29. Thousands were displaced, including Pastor Doug Fairrington of Living Water Family Fellowship Church and the majority of his flock. The wildfire destroyed the Fairrington’s home, their church, and the homes of 20 of the 22 families that remain congregates of Living Water.

Mike Miller, Mike Murphy and Murphy’s quadriplegic mother rode out the fire in the parking lot of Living Water after Miller went back into the burn zone to help Murphy get his mother out. Farrington's neighbor Tiffany Lemmerz drove past multiple barricades as the heat from the fire melted the tires off her car while trying to reach her daughter and niece, both 6, and her sister. Junction City Fire Chief Kelley Lopper and his team found these three huddled under a wet blanket next to the side of the highway, effectively saving their lives.

The short anecdotes above do little to express how harrowing the night of September 7 was and make up only a small fraction of a prodigious story that was just beginning. The long haul of recovery, of rebuilding and putting the pieces of a community back together, is the larger story and is still developing.

The fire may have destroyed homes and businesses, but it did not destroy the sense of community at the heart of the McKenzie River Valley or the faith of the Farrington’s and their flock. Living Water has raised over $300,000 in charitable donations to fund the rebuilding of their church, provide temporary housing for displaced people in their community and help people cover everyday expenses while they get back on their feet. Fire has tested this community’s faith and their faith seems to be holding strong, McKenzie strong, and hopefully it will continue to hold.