With the ninety fires currently burning in 7 of the western states, many evacuating to safety, and now the recent loss of life, I felt compelled to share on the profound benefits of preparation.
It was May of 2014, and we were assigned to a strike team of fire engines that had just finished mopping up a fire in north San Diego. A new fire had recently broken out and homes were being threatened. Hearing the radio traffic about the fire’s intensity, we anxiously waited for the call to do what we had been trained to do. Finally the call came in and we raced towards the giant column of dark smoke rising into the sky.
As one of the first groups of firefighters to arrive, we were sent right into the middle of it all.
Sitting in the engine, we watched the fire front coming up a drainage area to the saddle in front of us. As we deployed to protect homes in the area, a coordinated effort between air and ground resources began to take place. We were close, so close we could feel the droplets of fire retardant from the aircraft staining our helmets and protective gear.
Everyone worked hard that night, keeping the fire out of the houses.
Working through the night, we woke to see the fire moving away from us. I remember standing with our strike team leader at the top of the hill looking at the fire. I told him, “If the fire jumps this ridge and the wind changes, we’re going to get hit again.” About 1PM, that is exactly what happened. The fire jumped a control line and the wind changed. We knew exactly where this fire was going, and we repositioned to meet it face-to-face.
When I arrived in the cul-de-sac to support another engine that was already in place, my heart sank. We had 4 homes sitting in the path of the fire that was just fifteen to twenty minutes away. 3 of the homes were prepared. They had cleared the brush around their homes. We could tell they had been constructed with materials that would protect them from flying embers; there was no debris piled against those homes either.
But the fourth house was not prepared. Large standing trees touched the house in many places, the deck was old and broken, and there were piles of junk against the house. We knew we needed more help, but resources were already stretched thin in other areas fighting this fire. We were on our own. And we knew that if we threw everything we had into protecting this one house, we would lose the other 3 and maybe the fourth as well. We decided to prepare this one house as best as we could without sacrificing the other 3.
Fifteen minutes later the fire hit, and it hit hard.
The wind was intense and the smoke was so thick we had to retreat behind the fire engine to catch our breath. After the fire front passed, we went to work putting out fires around the first 3 homes, but the fire had already gotten into the attic of the fourth home. Soon thereafter, the house erupted into flames and became a total loss. We hated to see that house destroyed knowing the loss the family would endure, but we knew if they had been prepared like the houses next to them, the outcome would have been different.
This situation reminded me of the consequences of not being prepared both physically and spiritually for times like these, both literally and metaphorically speaking. Pastors Mickey and Mingo have touched on the benefits of being prepared in our recent Sunday messages. It’s caused me to reflect on the consequences of not being prepared.
When we discount information that is brought to us, when we respond to correction with pride instead of humility, we say we are okay with being unprepared. And when a disaster hits, we not only experience the consequences but we also then require rescue, thereby putting others at risk to save us. Don’t get me wrong, people are willing to help and dedicate their lives to serving, but how would we feel if our lack of preparedness caused injury to someone else or the loss of something precious?