At first we thought it was dust blowing from some farmer’s field, as once again, the afternoon wind started blustering from the southeast. But soon it became obvious that we were looking at smoke. “Who would be burning their fields in this weather?” we asked. The smoke quickly grew darker and thicker, burning our eyes and nostrils, as the wind (which, we later learned, was gusting at 50 mph) propelled the inferno northwards, more or less straight at us! Obviously, the fire was spreading like, well, wildfire.
We could hear sirens across the river, but the fire was in the trees and brush along the river; it would be too difficult and dangerous for fire crews to approach. One small helicopter was scooping water from the river and dumping it on hotspots, but it couldn’t make a dent in the big blaze. “They must be trying to protect those houses over on the hill,” we said. When we saw flames shooting in the air from huge cottonwoods that were burning like kindling, we said, “With this wind, it could jump the river.”
Hubby and I prayed for God to change the wind direction, so the fire would burn back into itself, and the firemen could get it under control. That’s exactly what happened! Within five minutes, the wind turned, the flames could no longer be seen, and the smoke plume shrunk visibly. I’m certain we weren’t the only ones praying, but I’m equally sure that if no one had, that fire would’ve caused much more destruction than it did.
An hour or so passed. The winds were stirring up smaller fires here and there, but the fire crews seemed to have a handle on them. We drove down to meet a friend whose farm was across the river from the fire, and we could see that sparks had indeed crossed the river and started various fires in the dry grass along the ditchbanks. Oddly enough, when we tried to drive back onto our county road, a sheriff’s officer waved us away.
“I can’t let you in there,” he said.
“We live here,” we replied, a bit impatiently.
“I’m under orders not to let anyone in. This area has been under a mandatory evacuation order ever since the fire jumped the river.”
That was the first we’d heard of an evacuation order—and it was two hours after the danger had passed!
“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” PSALM 118:8