Where do you consider your home to be?
Is it a place…a feeling?
What would you take with if you had only moments to leave?
Turns out, I would take my three boys, my purse and keys.
It’s grass fire season in Texas. So yesterday, when I smelled the smoke (even with the windows closed) I knew.
I raced around to each window, looking for smoke. When I found it, I couldn’t find enough air to catch my breath. The bedroom window perfectly framed the thick black smoke billowing from behind our trees by the road. I immediately dialed 911 and told the operator what I could see.
“It’s right across the street” came her hollow voice.
“What do I do?”
I called for the boys to get their shoes on, and get in the car. We made sure they dogs were loose and peeled out of the garage. Fires were burning the pastures as we drove. Trees were consumed.
As we drove further down the road, we saw a mountain of fire where an old farmhouse used to be. Images of waving at the inhabitants as I drove by played in my mind as sickness and sadness mingled for their loss.
Nothing could be done.
The curve in the road brought the firefighters into sight. There was nothing they could do. The house was gone, and the 60 mph winds were blowing the flames into the parched grass beyond.
What does dry earth do with a flame?
We left the house at 4pm and passed the water trucks as they were flying down the country road. We checked back every hour, but every hour seems like 4 when no one knows if your house is still standing. An 18 wheeler stood at the intersection of our road and the main road that runs past as two smaller water trucks took turns refilling and running back to protect the houses in the path of the inferno. The fields were left to burn, while the firefighters fought to prevent life and property from burning with them.
When we were finally allowed back home, around 9:30pm, the devastation was apparent even in the dark. I could see fires burning farther north than I should have been able to see. Our mailbox lay on the ground and looked like someone tried to cook s’mores on it.
We cautiously took in everything knowing, from a conversation with a firefighter, that the fire had jumped the road and burned a front yard, up the gutters, and onto the eves of a house…though he couldn’t recall which one.
When we rounded the driveway on our land, everything was standing. The dogs were waiting for us on the porch. The gutters were free of scorch marks. Our patchy yard was still green. But our sprinklers were in a completely different configuration than we left them. And the chairs were sitting in the flower beds.
They had used our sprinklers to water our foundation and porches…just in case.
That act of kindness almost sent me over the edge.
As if they weren’t busy enough, risking their lives, they thought to protect my home. The kids bikes were pulled away from the house, but not in a way that suggested rashness. A way that suggested they understood that this was a child’s home.
And they saved it.
It did not go unnoticed by the boys. They understood, without explanation, what those brave firefighters did for them. More than was required. Above and beyond.
The morning light brought relief and overwhelming thankfulness. The fire had licked at our land, a three square foot area had burned next to our gate. Our neighbors’ front yard had burned well away from their house.
The once green pastures are now black wastelands. The once tall trees are kindling. Smoldering fires can be seen in the distance, and heat from the ashes can still be felt in the air.
Today is a new day. A day without wind to fan the flames. In a short time, the earth will heal and life will replace the death. Our sadness now is aimed completely at the family that lost everything. Our prayers are for their restoration and may God’s blessing be fully realized on them.
View from our driveway. We didn’t used to be able to see the pasture.
Looking northwest from our house. This is where the smoldering fires are still taking place.
Our small burn spot by the front gate.
View looking northeast.