Simpson University 'Strike Team' Aids in Clearlake Fire Cleanup

For Immediate Release


Clearlake Fire Cleanup

REDDING, Calif. - Students in the Simpson University Strike Teams program responded to a request from Samaritan’s Purse U.S. Disaster Relief to help Lake County residents sift through the ashes of homes destroyed in a recent wildfire.

Twenty people—including 13 students, staff, family and friends—traveled to Clearlake, Calif., about 150 miles southwest of Redding, on Oct. 24, to participate in relief efforts following September’s devastating Valley Fire that burned more than 75,000 acres, destroyed nearly 2,000 structures, and killed four people.

Jason Sutherland, key volunteers and relations manager for Samaritan’s Purse North American Ministries in Boone, N.C., reached out to Simpson’s Office of Spiritual Formation when he researched and realized the proximity of the university to the disaster area.

He noted that he is also a deacon at a Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) church in North Carolina. Simpson University is one of four U.S. colleges of the C&MA denomination. “It is great to make the connection,” he said.

The Simpson Strike Team went through orientation and safety protocol, then traveled to a former home site, where they met the owner and worked with her to search for specific items in the rubble and ash.

“Once we got on our hands and knees, sifting through ash, hoping to see something of worth, I realized we weren’t looking for valuables, we were searching for memories, remnants of a past that was stripped away from the homeowner in an instant,” said business major Joel Steendam, a junior from Xinging, Quinghai, China.

The team was able to talk to and pray with the owner before and after the work, said nursing major Rebekah Scott from Porterville, Calif. “I think that was ultimately what struck a cord within me,” she said. “We were able to demonstrate how great our God is, and that there is hope and peace to be found in Him.”

Angie Hurtado, an ’06 Simpson graduate who works in the School of Adult Studies, participated on the team with her husband, Gabe. On Sept. 15, 2014, Hurtado’s parents lost their home of 30-plus years in the fast-moving Boles Fire in Weed, Calif. It was the home she had grown up in, and she spent days going through the rubble and ashes with her family.

“It took me a week to decide to go (to Clearlake) – I wasn’t sure emotionally if I was ready for it,” she said. Hurtado was asked to brief Strike Team members on what she’d gone through, so they would know what to expect. She also reached out to a Boles Fire victims group, inviting them to write letters to Valley Fire victims that she passed along to Samaritan’s Purse workers to distribute.

Hurtado was able to speak with the woman the team helped and offer some practical repair tips when the woman found her grandfather’s damaged pocketwatch in the rubble. “I shared our story and told her we’re rebuilding,” Hurtado said.

Samaritan’s Purse is an international Christian relief organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to those in need. According to its website, in the U.S., “Samaritan's Purse mobilizes staff and equipment and enlists thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to victims of tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters. We often stay behind after our initial response to rebuild or restore houses for needy families.”

In the past, Simpson University students have also participated in Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child, filling and packing shoeboxes with gifts for children around the world. Learn more about Samaritan’s Purse at

Learn more about Simpson University Strike Teams at


Simpson University, established in 1921, is a Christian university offering undergraduate, graduate, and teaching credential programs. The university celebrated its 25th year in Redding and the completion of a Science and Nursing Center in 2014. Academic programs include ASPIRE, a degree-completion program geared toward working adults with both on-campus and online course offerings, including degrees in psychology and organizational leadership. For information about the university, or to arrange a campus visit, call 1-888-9-SIMPSON or visit


Contact: SU Public Relations
(530) 226-4737