Friday, July 6, 2012

The Forest Fire

                I keep thinking of my blog theme, A Journey to Holiness.  At the time I began this blogging voyage, I wanted to write strictly about faith; yet, my love of fiction writing, crocheting, scrapbooking, raising kids, gardening, and a hodge podge of other events and activities I like to participate in or have no choice in the matter has made me feel like my theme is limited.  However, is it really all that limited?  Our journey to sainthood is more than just our religion/faith.  Everything I do should have God at the center whether it is baking a pie for my family or crocheting a blanket to donate to a charity.  Also, I should see the work of God through those around me.
                Two weeks ago, I saw the work of our Lord in the journey of a forest fire an event in my life that definitely wasn’t of my choosing.  The fire started on a Monday.  Everything was fine when we left home to go to dinner in town.  We live in a little cul-de-sac just two and a half miles from downtown.  Our backyard faces a busy road with a mountain climbing behind it with a few homes, dry grass, and trees on the ridgeline of mountains that continues north for a few miles.  I have always wondered what a fire would do if it caught in these mountains.  Technically, our home is safe with the road and irrigation ditch as blockers and a lack of fuel due to no trees.  However, seeing the huge plume of smoke hanging over the valley on our way home caused nervous energy in both my husband and me.  We watched from our deck as traffic became crazy with fire watchers, emergency vehicles, and people trying to get home from the end of the day.  Helicopters flew overhead with buckets of water, the police force closed the road, and the wind shifted causing smoke to cover our home.  Just in case, I loaded the cab of my pickup with all our photo albums and boxes.  Amazingly, I slept fine that night knowing God watched over us in the form of firefighters.
                Tuesday dawned beautiful with no wind, a huge blessing.  I went out to the backyard to weed the garden.  Eerily no commuter traffic traveled down the road, just emergency vehicles and the occasional neighbor trying to get to work or town.  A friend of one of my sons came over to mow the lawn when the wind picked up.  He finished as the wind shifted directions, our direction.  I had planned to go to town to run errands, but with the fire headed in my direction, I thought it better to stay out of the way of the crews screaming up the road.  I could feel the urgency as they made their way past our backyard.  My son’s room faces the direction of the fire, so I worked at cleaning it up and watched in nervous anticipation.
                The fire being on the other side of the mountains couldn’t be seen, but the point origin of the smoke could be observed.  It grew closer and closer.  Rumor from a neighbor said the fire had jumped our road further down.  Finally, I had to talk to my husband; the smoke seemed just too close.  We chatted and I tried to be brave.  Logically I knew we were safe.  Faithfully I knew God would take care of us whether we lost our house or not.  My heart cried out as I went through the rooms looking at our treasures.  The cotton my husband picked for me while he was in Louisiana, the bench my father made with tiny hand prints of the boys painted on the seat, and too many things to save with sentimental meaning never to be replaced.  Finally I told Jerry he might want to come home to water the roof, flying embers were a concern.
                Just minutes after hanging up the phone, I looked out the window and just knew nothing would stop the fire from coming up over the ridge.  We only had only minutes before we would see flames.  I started taking pictures off the walls wishing I had the van to get the big painting my sister-in-law painted in high school.  Coming back from the vehicle, I called my husband only to be able to leave a voicemail.  Moments later he pulled into the driveway.  My hero!  They almost didn’t let him through the roadblock.  His instructions were to get his family and get out of the area.  As he climbed the ladder up to the roof to get the sprinkler set on top, I finished up loading the van with our family portraits and the painting.  Our daughter loaded the hamster, I grabbed the cat, and away we went telling neighbors to head out as well.  I did see the first flame as it came over the top.  I am very thankful I didn’t see the rest.
                After regrouping at a restaurant, my husband went to a meeting at the local high school and I drove daughter and critters out to a friend’s house.  I also checked in with friends living in the area.  People were checking in with me.  My text inbox went from 50 to 200 in a matter of an hour or two.  After visiting with our friends and the kids playing, we were able to get back into our house.  The firefighters, bomber, and helicopters quickly took out the fire headed towards our home.
                The police officer let me through the roadblock.  He wore a flak jacket in all that heat to protect himself while protecting me and my home, a definite saint in the making.  I went out to the deck staring at the mountain.  Half lay blanketed in ash coming all the way down to the first line of homes.  Helicopters flew down filling their buckets from the irrigation ditch.  I watched in thankfulness as they continued to mop up our area.  During the night, I woke up periodically to check the red dots of the hot spots across from us.  I saw one flare up as it must have caught a tree on fire.  The next morning the helicopters flew in but at a greater distance.  Firefighters walked the side of the mountain double checking.  The fire was out.
                In three days, God reached out through all these people, the many friends who offered their home to us, the offers of help to get us out of the danger zone, the men and women fighting the fire from the ground and air, the police officers blocking the roads and working at keeping us safe, and the prayers.  I know thousands of people prayed for our community.  As I toured the area this week to see how much of our road was affected, I was amazed.  The fire went down the entire mountain range paralleling our road.  The area it jumped the road missed all the homes.  I can only image the work it took the firefighters to save everything.  Further into the mountains which I didn’t go look out, didn’t fare as well.  In total, four homes burnt down.  The damage could have been so much worse.  A good 100 homes had flames lapping just yards from their doors.
                Thank you God for all these saints in the making traveling down their road to holiness.
                Blessings to you all.

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