In late August, I was in my mother’s room just chatting with her while also occasionally trying to get some work done. Suddenly I heard some neighbors shouting as if something were wrong. The shouting didn’t die down, so I strolled over to the kitchen and went out on an elevated deck there to look outside. To my shock, I saw a huge cloud of smoke coming from a neighbor’s home that was adjacent to my mother’s home at a rear corner. I ran out to the backyard to see what was going on. “You have to get out now!” I heard someone yell. There was a huge cloud of black smoke and soon after that large flames rose into the air.
I could feel the heat as if I were standing next to a camp fire. The yelling soon stopped but now I could hear periodic explosions. I would later learn that our heroic neighbor knew that two elderly people were in the house whose garage had erupted into flames. They were asleep in the basement, and when they did not respond to his shouting, he kicked the door open and rushed in to bring them out before the main part of the house started burning also.
The aftermath: nothing left of the garage and heavy damage to a house.
There was no sound of alarms and no firefighters there yet. It was extremely dry and I was worried that the fire could spread to the home next to use and to my mother’s home with plenty of dry exterior wood and trees next to the house. Would I need to evacuate her with her broken leg? I felt pretty helpless as I grabbed a hose and tried wetting things down. The tiny stream of water from the hose would be nothing against the mighty fire I could see, hear, and feel.
Fortunately, firefighters came soon and quickly brought the chaos under control. No humans were hurt physically, but two beautiful dogs in the home perished in the flames.
Many thousands are facing raging fires now on the West Coast. It’s terrifying and they will need our help to cope with their tragedies. Meanwhile, with changes in weather, failures in local governments, and the added risk of rioters deliberately seeking to burn buildings down, considering themselves virtuous while preferentially destroying property belonging to minorities for whom they pretend to speak, this is a time to consider how well prepared we are for a fire.
A few years ago a friend of mine in the Hmong community of Wisconsin had a terrible house fire arising from an overloaded extension cord, if I recall the reports correctly. He had many children and relatives in the house. Everybody got out fortunately, but some gathered behind the house and some in front. As he looked for his children, he did not see his son. Not realizing his son was standing safely in the backyard, he believed his son was still in the house and rushed in to rescue him. He went into his burning living room carrying a hose to futilely spray water into the out-of-control fury. Suddenly there was a backdraft as hot flames rose to the ceiling above him and circled around behind him, in an instant engulfing him in fire. After 3 days of suffering in the hospital with third degree burns over most of his body, this young father passed away. So tragic.
Please make sure that if your family ever faces a fire, everybody knows where to gather once they get outside. Make sure your wiring is safe and extension cords aren’t overloaded, or that other fire hazards are eliminated. Make sure you have active smoke detectors in multiple places and test them. Know what to do when a fire occurs, and rehearse escape plans and other measures with your family. This is also a great topic for ministering brothers and sisters to consider as a vital way they can help others.
And please, don’t call for defunding fire fighters! We need their protection, just as we need the protection of local police who care about their communities.
Part of provident living is being prepared to reduce the risk of disaster and to cope with it wisely when it strikes. A good escape plan is one important part of that. Make sure everyone knows where to go and what to do if they have to flee the house for fire or other reasons.