As we drove back home, you could see the path the fire took. In it was total destruction. The earth was charred to a deep black, even the tall trees were just black toothpicks sticking up out of the ground. The smaller trees and brush that had filled up the void was completely gone. It looked like a Halloween ghost flick, complete with still smoky steam rising up to float over the surface.
Oh but our house never looked so good! However humble, there is no place like home. When we drove in, it felt like the house was holding its arms out to us in welcome.
All the chickens were there, though it took almost three months for them to come to trust me again, and about just as long before they started laying eggs again. We had gone on two week vacations before, and had a neighbor come and care for them while we were away, and found that they were no different when we returned. Not so this time. Something serious must have happened for them to distrust me so. They must have had quite the view to the fire, for their coop looks over the land that was scorched blackest. My heart aches for them; I wished I could have taken them with me when we left, but it was not possible. When we left, the automatic waterers were on, but when we returned, we found that the water to the house had been shut off. So the neighbors who stayed behind had been watering them as well as feeding them. Not an easy job when you have to truck the water in.
We could see that the fire had come right up to our driveway. Firemen had chopped down the nice trees that lined it, in an effort to preserve the house. The fence was charred black, with most of it missing.
The fire also chewed on one side of the shed, leaving quite a charred black spot. But it still stood, and everything inside it was safe.
We looked at the devastation all around us, and I found myself alternately crying and praising God. As I wandered around the property, I came across a pile of old hay that was still smoldering. We tried putting it out but we realized that the fire had moved underground, so we left the hose running (we had turned back on the water,) and hoped that it would be enough.
Inside the house everything was as we left it. The place reeked of smoke, and this did not go away for several weeks. Laundry had been left in the washer, and all the clothes were moldy and ruined, but the washer survived. All the contents of the fridges and freezers were rotten and full of mold.
We still had no power, but they got it up and running soon after we returned. The phone lines however remained down for months.
The place was crawling with people. It felt quite invasive, with so many strangers on our property. They claimed that they were “from the government and were here to help” us. They wanted to inspect things, to make sure that anything hazardous was taken care of.
Some firemen drove by, asking us if we had seen anything, so we told them about the fire on our property, so they came with their picks and dug out the ground till they reached the underground fire. They then used our water hose to put it out.
They told us that they were the ones who had camped out on our deck to keep a watch out for the fire. It was special for me, to be able to thank them in person for the work that they did. They told me that it was “no big deal” for them, and one of them told me that it was “fun” to put out the fires.
We decided to walk around the neighborhood to see how others were doing. Black and grey soot covered everything. Whenever the wind blew, chunks of grey ash fell off the tree limbs, making it look like it was snowing. We found that in many places the ground was so hot that it still radiated heat upwards. It’s not like the hot asphalt on a hundred degree day. It comes at you in distinct waves, and is much hotter. Black toothpicks of leftover stumps surrounded us, and many homes were just burnt out concrete slabs with a fireplace skeleton remaining. A horrible stench of something rotten and dead filled the air. Dizziness kept assaulting me, so I had to hold on to my husband as we walked. I had not felt this kind of dizziness while we were evacuated, but here near the fire, I did. I really do wonder if something was used to help this fire along, for somehow it felt quite evil and unnatural.
On our way back, a cop car came along side of us and wanted to know where we lived. While we were telling them, they got a call on their CB radio from another group of officers, telling them about a suspect that they had just taken into custody. Apparently this man had driven onto someone’s property and tried to pull open the garage door to gain entrance to the house. As we overheard their description, we realized that the house was our own, and their suspect was one of our boys who had been staying with the other family offering us shelter. We told this to the officers we were with, but they refused to release him. The officers asked us to get into the car with them so they could drive us back home and see if this person really was our son.
When we got there, we asked my son why he did not show the police his driver’s license, to prove that he lived there. He said that he did, but the police still did not believe him.
Thankfully they believed us, especially when they watched my husband pull out his keys to unlock the front door.
Two days later two insurance men came out to access the damage. One of them began arguing with us on the cost of a large tub of sour cream, but then the other man he was with stopped him and suggested that he should go on to the next place, for that one would have a lot more to deal with than us, and that he could take care of the stuff here. So the one man left, and the other man remained. (Apparently one of them takes care of the inside of the home, and the other one takes care of the outside claims.) He asked us about the damages, and we told him and gave him our photos and lists, and he didn’t even look at them or argue about the price of things. He just asked for the totals and wrote it in his computer. He then asked us if he could just sit there on our deck and work for the afternoon. We told him yes. Later on, he asked for my husband and said he had a check ready for us. My husband didn’t think that we would even meet the deductible, so when the adjuster wrote him out a check for several thousand dollars, he found he had to sit down in the nearest chair from shock. Apparently all the huge dead and chopped down trees around our home were worth several hundred a piece.
My husband had been wondering how we would be able to make our monthly mortgage payment, (for my husband had not gotten his usual summer job,) and here the Lord Jesus uses an insurance man to deliver the money we desperately needed to make the payment. Thank You Jesus!
A few days after we had returned, I suddenly realized what day it was; it was the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. This is a Holy Feast mentioned in the bible in several places, most notably in Leviticus 23:33-39 and in John 7:2-14. The first part of it is a solemn assembly, whereby an offering is made by fire to the Lord, and the people live in tents, as a sign that they are ready and willing to leave all that they have and follow God. The second part of it is on the eighth day, when a big feast (party) is held as a celebration for returning home. Our family usually takes out the old tent trailer to stay in, to celebrate the feast. But when I went to mention this to my husband, he became overwhelmed with all it entailed; the garage was still partially blocked from the downed trees, and the last thing anyone wanted to do was to go and live in a tent for a week. It would take several days just to clear everything out so we could get at the tent. I went back to the Lord and asked him (I was distressed with the thought of failing Him in this,) what we should do. But His calming voice slowly penetrated my mind.
“For more than a week you have tabernacled with Me, relying upon Me for your shelter and security. You made your sacrificial offering to Me and I have accepted it. You have met the requirements of the Feast of Tabernacles. You need do nothing more.”
I thought back to that dream of the colonel, and how we were safely residing in some kind of shield, and then relief washed through me, as I realized the truth of what He said. That night at the dinner table, we gave Him extra thanks and praise for all He does for us!
A week later, my stomach had settled back to normal, and my limbs no longer shook. I have been hit with tiredness in all that has happened to me. Yet I have also had great moments of profound joy.
I recently came across a piece of scripture that really summed it all up for me:
“The Word of the Lord is tried in the fire; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (Psalm 18:30, GNV)
TO BE CONTINUED… (Next post : The Aftermath)