California Catholic College Saved from Wildfire

News: US News
by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  December 6, 2017   

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SANTA PAULA, Calif. ( - After a wildfire swept through Southern California, Catholic college students are eager to pass their semester finals.

The Thomas wildfire, named after the area near Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) — one of the preeminent Catholic liberal arts colleges in the U.S. — began in the area directly behind the college on December 4 in the early evening.

Nicholas Shaler, a student at TAC, tells Church Militant an unidentified student noticed the fire, alerting students in one of the campus' recreation areas, exclaiming, "Hey, look outside, there's a giant fire!"


All 360 students successfully evacuated and are staying at the homes of nearby friends and other students who live nearby. Shaler notes that some student left their books behind and are apprehensive about semester finals, which had originally been scheduled for next week. He adds, however, that he is confident faculty will figure out a remedy to the problem.

Shaler noted that three faculty members and TAC President Michael McLean remained behind on campus to spray the buildings with water. By the time the fire moved south, nobody had been injured and only one building, the mechanic shop, was destroyed. Other buildings bear minimal fire damage.

TAC announced on its webpage "extensive damage to trees and brush" and that "the danger to the campus seems to have passed." Roads around the college, however, remain closed and electricity has yet to be restored to the area.

In October, a three-county wildfire, swept through Northern California, destroying thousands of homes and consuming over 115,000 acres across Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. More than 100 people landed in the hospital — dozens died.

Catholic apologist Joseph Sciambra barely escaped with his wheelchair-bound father but endured the loss of all his worldly goods.

Afterward, however, it was discovered the chapel his father built on the family property was miraculously saved from harm while everything else was reduced to ashes.

The Thomas wildfire is now creeping closer to Los Angeles, forcing authorities to close Highway 405.

More than 50,000 acres have burned in Southern California, leaving a trail of ash and destruction. The Thomas wildfire has yet to slow down.

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