“Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name; you are mine…When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-3 (NIV)
It must be August. The fire trucks zoomed up our mountain road last Saturday, followed by the Sheriff and forest service vehicles. Thunderstorms had threatened our valley all afternoon. Could there have been a lightning strike? My husband Kent was on the phone to the Sheriff’s office and neighbors to find out the news. A lightning strike had started a small fire on Carbonate Mountain, two miles south of us. Officials would let us know if the fire spread.
The memories of five previous fire evacuations came flooding back to me. We did not want to go through that again! We didn’t want to alarm the people in camp either, so what did we do? We prayed. Right there in the camp office where we knew we were helpless to any fires, we prayed. And God sent rain, and hail, and the most beautiful rainbow we had ever seen. And no fire evacuation. Thank you, Jesus.
Earlier this summer I came out of the house to a smell that I’ve come to call “August.” It was the campfire smell we have experienced almost every year since moving to Montana. It was only July at the time, so I was surprised and worried. It turned out that smoke had drifted over from a fire in Yellowstone National Park. Our valley was still safe.
Every summer the threat of fire danger in our valley in south central Montana is a cause for concern. We’ve experienced so many fire evacuatons. The ones that stand out most in our minds were two back-to-back evacuations in 2006.
On Tuesday, August 22, 2006, lightning caused fires to start in our county, Sweet Grass County. The fires were to the west and east of our valley, but for safety, the Boulder Valley was also closed at Natural Bridge. The fires were the Derby fire (named for Derby Mountain where the fire started) and the Jungle fire (named for a stream near where it started) . Together they burned an area about 1/4 the size of Rhode Island.
It was a scary time for the people of our valley. We asked our prayer friends to pray. There are many Bible verses that can provide comfort at times like this. Most meaningful to us was our camp Psalm 121…“I lift my eyes to the hills, from whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”
Sunday night, September 3 at 9 p.m. the Boulder valley was evacuated. The Derby fire was in the East Boulder and the Jungle fire was in the West Boulder. As we approached McLeod, we could see the sky was orange and smoke was rising in the east. We spent the week in Big Timber, checking with the forest service each day, and watching the fiery orange sky each night.
On September 10, we returned to Camp on the Boulder and found everything just as we left it. We praised the Lord! Smokey the Bear said “extreme” for the fire danger on our road.
Wednesday, September 13th we were evacuated for a second time. The temperature was 87 degrees. The Jungle fire was headed for the old Boulder River Ranch and Natural Bridge. We were so thankful for the firefighters, volunteers, forest service, sheriff’s department, and everyone who worked so hard to keep us all safe.
But they wouldn’t have been able to save our valley, if God hadn’t sent over an inch of rain and then snow that Friday and Saturday, drowning the fires that had threatened Montana for weeks. Kent had to hurry back to camp to shut off water so the pipes wouldn’t freeze! September 18th we were able to return to camp and stay.
As we drove up the valley and saw the snow-capped mountains, the familiar campfire song came to mind, “Praise God” to the tune of Amazing Grace. And as we passed the burnt hillsides, the third verse of that great hymn seemed most appropriate…”Through many dangers, toils, and snares, we have already come, ’tis Grace hath brought us safe thus far, and Grace will lead us home.”
And the last verses of Psalm 121 rang true:
“The Lord will keep you from all evil;
He will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and for evermore.” Psalm 121:7-8 (NIV)