Christians praying as out-of-control California wildfires bring devastation

(Photo: Instagram/RomaDowney)Smoke billows over Malibu as residents evacuate

Churches in California are praying for an end to the devastating wildfires that have burned thousands of homes to the ground.

At least nine people have been confirmed dead as authorities struggle to contain three large wildfires in the state.

One of the worst affected areas is the town of Paradise in Butte County, northern California, which authorities said was 'pretty much' destroyed.

Amazingly, at least one church in Paradise has so far managed to survive the flames.  Paradise Alliance Church, which sits on the northern edge of the town, posted a picture of its building still standing on Friday as smoke clouded the sky behind.

It captioned the post: 'For those wondering. A praise in the midst of trouble. Prayers for you all.'

Other churches have also been caught up in the chaos after mandatory evacuation orders were put in place.

Pastor Shawn Thornton was forced to evacuate just days after losing two people from his church in the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday.

But he's more worried about others who might have lost their homes than he is about himself.

'People's whole lives, some people have lived in those homes 40, 50 years, and now we're hearing there's a few fatalities,' Thornton told Fox 11 News

He added that his heart had not felt this heavy since 9/11.

'The only other time in my 20 some years of pastoral ministry I have felt like I'm feeling right now was on September 11, 2001, as I had the great privilege of serving the folks at Bible Center there in the city of Charleston. I felt this same way then,' he said.

'The whole country isn't feeling it, the whole world isn't feeling it, but I can tell you that we in our area, we're really feeling it.'

A mandatory evacuation order is in place in Malibu, with the city alerting residents on Friday that the Woolsey Fire had reached populated areas.  In an update on Saturday, the city said the fire was still '0% contained'.

Vintage Church, which has campuses in Malibu, west LA and Santa Monica, said it was 'heartbroken' by the fires and shooting at Thousand Oaks. As part of its response, church members are opening up their homes to those who have had to evacuate and the church will be running trauma and grief management workshops.

Hollywood celebrities have also had to evacuate.  Christian TV and movie producer Roma Downey was thanking God and asking for prayers after she and her family managed to evacuate their Malibu home in time.

In an Instagram update, Downey, who is married to producer Mark Burnett, told fans that her dad's Bible was one of the few things she took with her.

'What do you take from your home when you are told to evacuate immediately because of approaching wild fires? I grabbed my Fathers old family bible, my daughters first Christmas dolly and a smoke mask [SIC],' she said.

'Thank God my family and dogs are safe. Praying for all those impacted by these fierce fires and for the safety of all the first responders.'

In another update, Downey,  wrote that it had taken them four hours to evacuate. 

She wrote: 'But we are safe thank God and our dogs are safe.  Our street is on fire. So I hope our home survives. It's was apocalyptic and moved so fast.  Thanks so much to all our friends for reaching out. We appreciate the love and concern. Please Keep praying for all first responders and fire fighters that they are safe and protected we are out but they are still there [SIC].'

Lifestyle