As residents throughout Southern California faced the unenviable task of returning to charred homes after a series of wildfires swept across bone-dry municipalities, religious communities sprung into action to offer help and words of hope.

Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie, co-director of the North County Chabad-Lubavitch Center in Yorba Linda, said that the worst of the flames struck his Orange County area during Shabbat services on Saturday. Several community members’ homes were destroyed.

“There’s still a serious fire here,” stated Eliezrie as picked up a list of members’ contact numbers before heading out to the worst-hit neighborhoods. “Last night, we went to deliver water to the police and fire crews. Today, we’re going to meet with families.”

Morteza Khalili, who moved to Yorba Linda in 1998, said that he was at the synagogue when Rabbi Levi Blesofsky, the education director, came inside to say that the clouds of white smoke all around them had turned to black.

“I couldn’t stay,” said Khalili, who lost his house in the blaze, one of three raging infernos that have burned almost 33,000 acres.

When he got home, the flames were quickly approaching. He and his wife didn’t have time to take any belongings.

“I went home to grab my wife,” he said. “The fire was everywhere.”

On Sunday, the couple went shopping for basic necessities and clothes. He said that they were staying at his brother’s house.

“Thank G‑d, we’re okay,” he said. “We’re calling our insurance company tomorrow. We’re doing our best.”

Rachelle Markovich, who also attends services at the Chabad center and has lived in Yorba Linda for 19 years, said that as flames descended upon her neighborhood, three previously unknown neighbors battled to save her house and those of others on her street.

“When we left yesterday morning to go to synagogue, the fire was about 10 miles away. My son was still at home, but he left to come and get us when it looked like the fire was encroaching,” she related. “By the time we came back, the entire area was in smoke and flames.”

As Markovich and her family watched the fire consume her neighborhood from a storefront a safe distance away, she feared the worst. When they returned Sunday morning, they found hoses strewn about their lawn, the house “miraculously saved.”

“Three gentlemen who didn’t evacuate were going around and saving people’s homes,” she said. “One guy across the street came to return the nozzle to my hose.

“Yesterday, we read in the [Torah portion] about the three angels” who visited Abraham, she continued. “And here we had three angels. There was a reason we went to synagogue yesterday, when we hadn’t been since the holidays.”

Elsewhere in the region, tensions were high, with some families returning from mandatory evacuations while others grabbed what little they could and ran.

In Northridge, an hour’s drive away, authorities handled evacuations on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.

“Several people in our community were evacuated over Shabbat,” said Rabbi Eliyohu Rivkin, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Northridge. “But thank G‑d, everyone is home, safe and sound.”

The one lingering worry, added the rabbi, was the smoke from a fire that’s not completely under control. The center’s 100 Hebrew school students couldn’t go outside during classes on Sunday.

“I’m looking out my window right now,” he said, “and the ash looks like snow.”

Rabbi Mendel Cohen, the co-director of Chabad of the West Coast’s Sharing the Warmth program who drove a food truck down to S. Diego last year to feed fire evacuees, said that he’s been in contact with the Red Cross and the Los Angeles Fire Department to offer assistance. Shelters, though, seem to be handling the influx of evacuees just fine.

“We’re here to offer any help that’s needed,” he said.