We saw the smoke before we saw the flames.
Driving down our road we were taken by surprise to see smoke rising from the hillside across the street from our home.
As we neared the field we discovered the entire hillside in flames.
My heart raced as I fumbled to unlock the screen of my cell phone, find the button that allows me to dial (buried within the apps that litter my phone), and dial 911.
It was just Tyler in the car with me. Being my child who is actually extremely competent and calm in emergency situations, he pointed out that the flames were slowly climbing the hillside toward the natural gas well at the top of the hillside. He calmly suggested we finish our phone call from down the street, “You know, just in case everything blows up.”
The dispatcher informed us that police and fire fighters would arrive shortly and that they would want to speak with me, so Tyler and I hung out at the end of the driveway, a safe distance away from the flames rolling across the hillside.
A member from the fire department was the first to arrive and the first to question whether we had seen any other vehicles on the road before he took off in his truck to search for the potential arsonist before returning to us to have a longer conversation.
After being assured that our home wasn’t at risk and there was no risk of explosion we settled in across the street from the fire, well out of the way of the police and firemen who spilled onto the scene, and watched as the fire was brought under control.
This is the second fire on our road in the last two weeks, but one of many that evidently have been taking place in our township. We told the fireman who was first of the scene that a week prior two mattresses had been dumped on the edge of the road, near the bottom of our driveway, and a few days later were set on fire.
We were blessed that it had been a wet week because the damage was contained to a small area near the road. Had it been drier or windier we could have lost everything…and everyone…
The thought of all that could have been lost, as a result of someone else’s criminal mischief, is sobering.
This particular fire was also set by someone who had disposed of an old couch on the side of the road a few days prior and then returned Wednesday afternoon to light it on fire. I suspect we missed crossing paths with this individual by only minutes. The couch was still smoldering when we came upon the fire. On that day, however, the elements didn’t work to our advantage. The drier grass and higher winds made the flames spread quickly.
We were so grateful for the quick response by so many emergency personnel who arrived on the scene and made quick work of subduing a dangerous situation.
An hour later the ground was no longer burning…no longer smoldering, but the effects of one small spark was evident in the charred ground that had replaced the tall, blowing grasses .
I have been thinking a lot about the power found within a small spark…
Power for destruction or power for good.
A few years ago we had the opportunity to visit Sequoia National Park as part of our cross-country road trip. There are no words that can adequately describe the awe- inducing wonder of standing beside one of these mammoth trees.
Giant sequoias are the world’s largest single tree and largest living thing by volume. Giant sequoias grow to an average height of 164–279 feet and 20–26 feet in diameter. Record trees have been measured to be 311 feet in height.
The oldest known giant sequoia based on ring count is 3,500 years old. Giant sequoias are among the oldest living things on Earth.
While visiting Sequoia National Park we learned more about these trees and one thing that stood out to me and left an impression was the important role fire plays in the life of a Sequoia tree. While many forests would find destruction at the hands of a forest fire, the Sequoia tree finds life….
“The Giant Sequoia is truly the most awesome species in the Sierra Nevada ecosystem. As in other living communities, sequoia groves – and the mixed conifer forests that contain them – have evolved with and adapted to natural processes that must continue if the community is to remain healthy. Fire is one of the major processes essential to the health of giant sequoia groves.
In the early 1960s, Dr. Richard Hartesveldt explored the connection between fire and sequoia regeneration. His small-scale prescribed fires followed nearly a century of fire suppression, and resulted in the germination of sequoia seeds and the recruitment of sequoia seedlings – something that had not occurred in the absence of fire.
Since those first experiments, researchers have further shown the benefits to sequoias from fire. Dendrochronology has determined that low intensity surface fires swept through the big trees approximately every 5 to 15 years. Sequoias rely on fire to release most seeds from their cones, to expose bare mineral soil in which seedlings can take root, to recycle nutrients into the soil, and to open holes in the forest canopy through which sunlight can reach young seedlings.” -National Park Service
Not only is the Sequoia tree designed to withstand the destructive power of fire. The tree actually finds life within those very same flames.
It takes the heat of fire to cause the cones of the tree to open and drop its seeds, leading to new life in the Sequoia forests.
What a beautiful analogy for life.
We are all hit with unexpected sparks in life…
Sparks that can turn into raging infernos of destruction.
Quite often these sparks are set by those intending to harm, while other times they are simply a side effect of life here on earth, like the strike of lightning during a summer storm.
Sometimes we are the “fire starters,” making choices that lead to destructive consequences.
Sometimes these sparks can be contained and managed, but often we find ourselves being hit with the hot wind of an out-of-control inferno that is beyond our ability to battle…we simply must ride out the tragedy and wait for the fire to burn out, hoping that the destruction isn’t too great.
In the wild fire seasons of life it is easy to become so consumed with survival in the midst of destruction that we don’t even notice the hardened scales of our conifer cones opening under the heat of adversity, allowing seeds of new life to fall to the blackened ground.
Often it isn’t until the fire storm has passed that we see the bright shoots of green pressing up from the soil around us bringing with it hope, promises of healing, and the gift of new life.
Much like the Giant Sequoias, we have been through the fire and now find ourselves at the other end of this particular inferno. We are seeing the work of God sprouting up from destruction.
We have witnessed God’s promise:
That in life the greatest trials often give birth to the greatest blessings.
I testify this to be true.