The Catholic Diocese of Bismarck is organizing aid for the people of Shields, a small town devastated by a grass fire on Saturday.
The Bismarck Catholic Diocese will coordinate help through its Office of Social Concerns, said Joel Melarvie, communications director for the diocese. Melarvie conducted what is called a "priestless Sunday" this past weekend at Fort Yates and Cannon Ball, and called the situation "terrible."
The Rev. Terry Wipf is pastor at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Fort Yates, assisted by Brother George Maufort. They also staff the Catholic Indian Mission, which reaches out to the communities of Cannon Ball, Solen, Selfridge, and St. James in Porcupine, which is right across the Cannonball River from Shields.
With the Shields fire threatening Porcupine, Melarvie, Wipf and Maufort attempted to drive into town to retrieve some of the church's sacred objects, but weren't allowed in, he said.
The care and feeding of firefighters and volunteers is the primary concern of the Burleigh-Morton Red Cross chapter so far, said chapter director Keith Engbrecht, speaking by phone from Fort Yates High School on Monday.
The Red Cross is just now beginning to contact those who lost homes, Engbrecht said. Case work for those with destroyed homes will start Tuesday, he said. Engbrecht said the tribe has been putting up those who lost homes in motels to this point.
The Red Cross will meet with tribal members Tuesday to see what can be done to help them on the road to recovery, he said. The local Red Cross has a fairly small office, he said, and have had some wonderful volunteer help over the weekend.
With the return of those volunteers to work Monday morning, however, "we're stretched," he said. Folks such as cooks from Fort Yates High School have been called upon, and lots of others are contributing time and resources, he said.