A“firebug” started the fire that’s
burning right up the side of the mountain toward town!” Bob said, running into
the kitchen with Glenn and Lynn. “We might have to leave!”
“What’s a firebug?” Sally asked.
“A firebug is a person who enjoys
setting fires and watching the woods burn,” Mother explained.
“But that’s sick,” Sally said.
“Yes,” Mother said, “a person who
does that is sick. I hope the police find him before he sets another fire.”
“Father said to gather in the
living room and wait for him,” Glenn continued. “He’ll be in as soon as he’s
finished talking to the policeman who came to warn us.”
Mother, Sally, and Anita hurried
into the living room. “Alice! Grover!” she called. “Come downstairs right
away!” Quickly everyone huddled together in front of the fireplace.
“Listen,” Father said, coming into
the room. “We’ve been instructed to pack an overnight bag for each member of
the family, and pack up our valuables.
We should put everything in the car right away, in case we are told to
evacuate. I’ll see to it that we have a full tank of gas.”
“Where are we going?” Anita asked.
“I don’t have time to explain that
right now,” Father said. “Gather in this room in 10 minutes, or the second you
hear a siren go off. No one, for any reason, is to leave the lodge.”
Everyone scattered to their rooms.
Sally put two sets of clothes, pajamas, and a coat in her suitcase. She added a
few personal items and snatched up two of her favorite seashells and her Bible,
hiding them under her clothes. She grabbed a small backpack and placed several
books inside. She wouldn’t think of going anywhere without a good book. “God,
please don’t let the fire burn our home!” she pleaded, heading for the living
Everyone dragged their bags down
the stairs and stowed them by the back door. Finally Father came into the
“You’ll have to use the fireplace
for cooking,” Father told Mother. “I just shut off the gas line.” Sally looked
into the yard at the large butane tank. She knew that a copper tube connected
the tank to the stove inside the lodge.
“If a flying ember landed in the
wrong place, this lodge could blow up,” he explained. “We’ve been given
instructions to leave the area the moment the siren sounds. Those who aren’t
ready will have to leave without food or extra clothes. There won’t be time to
prepare once the siren blasts.”
The afternoon wore on slowly.
Father and the boys left the lodge to climb the hill behind the house. “We’ll
talk to the firefighters at the supply station and see what we can find out,”
he called back to Mother, who stood in the doorway watching them.
“There’s a wall of flames almost
100 feet high charging up the mountain,” Father said when he returned to the
lodge. “We saw an entire hilltop burst into flames. The firefighters said that
when the fire gets very hot a whole hill could explode into flames even before
the fire reaches it. They call it capping.”
Outside the lodge a horn honked.
Father and Glenn ran out the door. A police officer shouted a message to them
from his car and sped away.
“Firefighters have used bulldozers to
cut a firebreak, or a clear area, in front of the fire,” Father said, stepping
back inside. “They’ll build a backfire on the edge of the firebreak. The
backfire has nothing to burn in the cleared space, so it burns back toward the
fire. The fire and backfire meet and burn each other out.”
“We all have to stay right here,”
Glenn added, frowning. “That’s in case the wind comes up later and the fire
surges over the firebreak. If that happens, we’ll probably have to drive the
nine miles to Snow Valley.”
“We might have to stay in a motel
until it’s safe to come home,” Father added.
“What happens if the fire comes up
to Snow Valley?” Grover asked.
“We’ll be evacuated in army
helicopters,” Father explained.
Sally tried to imagine what an
adventure it would be to ride in a big helicopter! She smiled.
Father and Mother weren’t smiling,
though. They walked out onto the porch and talked in hushed tones.
Sally realized that if the fire jumped the firebreak, they could lose their
home and everything in it. She thought of all the other people in town, huddled
around their own fireplaces. Suddenly she didn’t feel like smiling, either.
At dusk everyone pulled their
mattresses down the stairs and made beds in front of the fireplace. Mother
stirred up the embers and poured pancake batter into a cast iron skillet. Over
the fire she fried up a large stack of pancakes.
“Are we camping?” Grover asked, pulling
on Mother’s skirt.
“That’s a good way to look at it,”
Mother replied with a smile.
That night, everyone slept fully
clothed, including shoes, ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. In the
morning Father and the boys headed up the hill again to see how far the fire
had advanced and to talk with the firefighters. Father let Sally go along. She
burst into tears when she saw hill after hill, black and spouting smoke. She
watched the red wall of flames eat up the beautiful green pines like a hungry
“The wind is coming up,” Father
said. “It will whip the flames into a frenzy. We’d better get back to the
As they entered the house, the
siren blared. “Get into the car!” Father shouted. Seconds later they were
headed down the road to the main highway. They passed people dashing into their
homes and reappearing, arms loaded with clothes and valuables. A policeman
shouted at them to get into their cars and leave town. Sally saw terror written
on these peoples’ tear-stained faces. She was thankful that Father had made
them pack everything the night before.
“Fire travels fast,” Sally heard
her father say, as they joined a trail of cars moving slowly up the winding
road toward Snow Valley. “At 60 miles per hour, that fire could catch us out on
“Shush,” Mother cautioned. “You’ll
frighten the children.” She looked into the back of the car and saw seven sets
of wide eyes.
“Don’t be afraid. Jesus is with
us,” Mother soothed.
“Then I think we’re fireproof,”
Sally blurted. “I read about three Israelite boys who got thrown into a fiery
furnace because they wouldn’t bow down to the king. Jesus was with them, so the
fire couldn’t burn them up. They didn’t even smell like smoke when they came
out of the furnace.”
“I guess . . . that’s right,” Mother
said, tears coming into her eyes.
Sally looked over the edge of the
road as they crept along. A ragged line of fire charged toward them up the
mountainside. Yellow and red flames burst into the sky. The trees looked like
flaming torches. Airplanes flew over San Bernardino and scooped water up from
the ocean not far beyond. Then they flew back over the fire and dumped the
water on the flames.
Sally watched large sprays of
pinkish chemicals shoot out of some planes that passed over the worst parts of
the fire. Puffs of black smoke billowed into the sky. Ashes fluttered down on
them like a black snowstorm.
“We’re fireproof because Jesus is
with us,” Grover said, staring out the window. He snuggled up to Sally and hid his face in her shoulder.
But would God protect them the way
He had the young men in the fiery furnace?