With the overhead roar of DC-10s and Super Scooper planes, and with water helicopters hovering over the swimming pool at Chabad-Lubavitch of Running Springs, Rabbi Yosef Brod can barely hear himself speak.
But he’s turned on the fire hydrant and keeps refilling the pool with water to allow for the choppers to fill their scoopers and dump water on fires licking the perimeter of the 70-acre property situated 14 miles deep into the woods.
“We are in a dangerous situation with fires raging on two sides of our campus and many of the homes in Running Springs destroyed,” Rabbi Brod, Chabad representative to Running Springs says.
And yet he refused to evacuate when he was advised to do so Monday night. “This is a holy place,” he told the fire department, “and I’m not leaving.”
When fire-fighters from LA and San Gabriel drove up to Chabad of Running Springs in search of a place to use as a base, they couldn’t have been more grateful for Rabbi Brod’s defiance of their recommendations the night before.
“Had Rabbi Brod evacuated last night,” Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, head Chabad representative to the State of California, told Lubavitch.com, “they would not have had this fantastic place to use and to refresh.” Firefighters have been drawing thousands of gallons of water from the site's private water 120,000 gallon water reserves.
The wooded property sitting six and a half thousand feet above sea level, is used as a retreat by Chabad of California and has now been formally opened to firefighters and relief personnel working to combat the wildfires.
“We’ll accommodate even hundreds of firefighters with food and showers and a place to rest,” says Brod, explaining that because of plans to host university students this weekend, “our refrigerators are stocked with food.”
Private generators, a separate waste treatment plant, and 15 private fire hydrants make this not only an ideal base for firefighters, but also useful to them in their efforts to combat the flames.
It’s a convergence of just those kind of details that makes Rabbi Cunin applaud the hand of G-d, and the blessings of the Rebbe.
“Not a single one of San Diego’s 15 Chabad Houses has been damaged,” says Rabbi Cunin. Though all but one of them have been evacuated, “our Shluchim are fully engaged in counseling and relief efforts, with our trucks delivering food and other forms of assistance to people in need.”
In unaffected areas, Chabad Shluchim have opened slots in their schools for children from evacuated areas, and Chabad Centers, Chabad Shluchim and community members have opened their homes to host evacuated families.
“It’s not a coincidence,” exclaims Rabbi Cunin, “that our facility in Running Springs is named the Panikoff Center of Love and Kindness.”