Fire Officials said at yesterday morning's news conference that the Blue Cut Fire is doing things that they have never seen in thirty years. When fire officials say this they mean it. In one day this fire engulfed over 30,000 acres. As I listened to the reports and the interviews with people not willing to evacuate my thought immediately returned to my experience in 2003.
It doesn't seem that long ago that I was called to go to San Diego for the Cedar Fire that burned 600,000 acres in October of 2003. Having had training in Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) I was called by a Cal Fire Captain to join a team to serve firefighters at the Base Station. When I arrived the situation and the need changed. A strike team lost a team member when setting up a defense to protect some homes. These were veteran firefighters from Northern California. They were well trained and well equipped. The area around the home and those adjacent to it had been well cleared by a bulldozer leaving behind over 50 feet of bare land and yet winds pushed the fire with enflamed debris and jumped the cleared land. Flames towered over the structures and fire raining all around the strike team and upon the house. Once any defense was hopeless they ran into the home for temporary protection. You see, the fire will engulf the house but remains as protection for a short period of time. Once the fire blows past where it started leaves opportunity for the firefighters to exit the home where they entered. However, the fire moved so fast and with such force that one firefighter didn't make it into the home and was killed. A life lost to protect a house.
In San Diego I joined a team of people trained as I was to come along side that strike team minus one for three days helping them cope and deal with their tragedy. I have so much respect for all firefighters but even more after being with this crew and knowing what they endured in loosing their friend and fellow firefighter.
At the same time I was in San Diego fire raged in the San Bernardino Mountains. The Old Fire did not burn as many acres but it did act in a way that veteran firefighters expressed they had never been seen anything like it. It was explained to me that as ash rose into the higher atmosphere it collected moisture and becoming heavy fell straight down forcing the fire out at the base of the mountain. Large balls of flaming debris exploded out into neighborhoods from the main fire, over fire trucks, to hit a roof, then bounce over an adjacent house to finally ignite the roof of that house. When I later visited those neighborhoods I saw houses burnt to various degrees but scattered. Two houses then a charred house then another three houses then another charred frame. It was as if the fire picked and chose what houses it wanted to burn.
What is quite upsetting to me are those people who resist or even refuse to evacuate their homes when they are warned by law enforcement or fire personnel. They endanger themselves and the firefighters that are called upon when such home owners are trapped. I understand their desire to hold onto valuables. What they do not understand is fire and its hunger for fuel. They value their stuff to the point of risking their lives and the lives of others.
There is a spiritual comparison here. There is a fire headed at mankind, God has called people to leave behind their old life so to be saved from the wrath to come. Like those refusing to leave their possessions hoping to save them themselves, many refuse to heed the call to evacuate and leave behind their old life to safety in Christ. What is it about that old life that is worth dying for? What real value is there in something that is temporary, that can burn, rust or melt, over a human being's eternal future? I know, people will say, "I got time," but to wait is to jeopardize the peace of experiencing safety, for as long as you are in the path of a fire there is always the uncertainty of the unknown, an internal fear and unrest. Christ came to deliver sinful man from the eternal fire, He has called mankind to evacuate into his lovingkindness and to his kingdom. It is a matter of time that the fire will engulf the world but salvation is available right now. The warnings need only be heeded.
“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2Corinthians 6:2)