February Fires

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“Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.” – Joel 2:23

I love that verse because it reminds me that the Lord is in control of everything, especially the seasons of our lives. You might not always want abundant showers on that day when you plan to go to the beach but the Lord is faithful and he sends you what you need, when you need it.

On 9 February 2014, my dad’s property was threatened by the bushfire. My sisters and I immediately raced out there to help. We arrived, not really believing we would actually have to fight the fire. I mean, he has lived there for 30 years – we grew up there – and never has he ever had a bush fire on his property. (He did have an accidental fire when he tried to get rid of blackberry bushes but that was a very different situation. It was winter and the fire was easily controlled.)

The February fire was different. About four hours after we arrived, we had the gutters organized, the dogs located and put in their runs and the cattle and horses were safely up in the small area around the shed. Dad had his sprinklers set up, with two on the roof, and his pump and water system were tied up and ready on the back of the truck.

Then I hear my sister (let’s call her “Dakota”) yell, “I can see fire!”

I look up and sure enough at the top of the neighbor’s property, you could see a line of fire. This kicks everyone’s feelings up notch. My other sister (let’s call her “Phoenix”) and I texted some very faithful friends to start praying and we turned on the water.

By an hour later, the fire had hit the paddock that my dad leases next door. A CFA water bomber was dumping water on the area at regular intervals but the fire was still progressing towards us. Dad and Phoenix got on the back of the truck and headed out to put it out before it got any closer. Two trips later and that paddock was under control. At some point here, the CFA left to fight the fire over the road.

However, the fire was now making its way down the hill at the back of our property. Dad raced down in the motor bike to rescue a neighbor’s herd of cattle and miracle, upon miracle, these panicked cattle did not scatter. They had walked themselves up to our back gate as if they knew that they were safer with us. Then when the gate opened they ran themselves straight into our round yards! It was somewhat amazing! Cattle never do what you want them to, especially in a panic. That was clearly God’s hand at work.

Dad was able to lock them in and take off in the truck again, this time to fight the fire that was now in our back paddock. Dad knew that we couldn’t let it get to the long grass at the base of the hill. If it hit that, it would race straight up to the house. We (Dakota, Phoenix & I) alternated going out and standing on the back of the truck with the hose – I make that sound like it was no big deal but that’s only because it’s hard to convey the jolting, rushing, flooring the gas that the truck went through in those moments, with us on the back trying to hold on to the water tank with one hand and point the hose effectively with the other, all the while fighting the smoke as the wind blows it directly into our eyes and mouths. We were covered in bruises as a result of all the jolting.

It was an experience and to be sure I could not tell you how long we were at it. I know we refilled his 1000 litre tank several times and we moved from one paddock to another trying to stop it from spreading any closer to either the house or the gully – if it reached either of those places it would have too much fuel to burn.

At some point the CFA arrived – I know it was dark on Sunday night by this stage. They were incredible. My sister had called them earlier that day and was told that there were no off terrain vehicles available at that time but that night, we didn’t just have one off terrain vehicle – God brought us 4! Four off terrain vehicles and two supervising vehicles!

Phoenix had been praying ever since she made that call, asking that if God could send one off terrain truck, could he please send four? He answered with a resounding ‘yes.’

That night we thought the threat was done but there was another flare up the next morning at 9am in the gully. Dad and the CFA tried to get it out as soon as possible. But it took off up the hill (away from our house in the opposite direction). Only a small area in our other neighbor’s paddock was still alight. The CFA were called away by about 2pm. By 4pm the fire had gotten up momentum and was spreading through our neighbor’s paddock straight for his house.

We headed down and did another run at the fire. But the paddocks were too full of grass and thistles. The fire had too much fuel. We had several attempts at it but we couldn’t put it out. At this point the neighbor had no water and no CFA support. They were relying on our truck. Then Dad realized that the fire had hit the paddock adjacent to our gully. If it burned its way through that paddock it would be right back on our land – unburned side. Then God delivered another miracle in the form of the CFA arriving in force. Dad was able to leave with a clear conscience and tackled the fire threatening his own land. By 8.30pm, the fire was out in that bottom paddock and the neighbor’s fire was contained.

Dinner that night opened with a heartfelt prayer, thanking God for his faithfulness and his provision. The next two days saw us checking and rechecking for any embers that were still alight. It was a new experience living out there – no power, no running water – so no ability to wash the stench of smoke off or charge our mobile phones – and no ability to leave the property until the police road block ended. If we left, they said they wouldn’t let us back in. We ended up having to ask my Uncle to meet us at the road block in the truck with some diesel and a small generator. It was a miracle that my step-mum had kept an old analogue phone receiver so we could still use the phone line. She also had an old CD player that operated on batteries so that we can listen to AM radio and keep updated on any changes in those first two days.

I can’t tell you how eerie it was on those first two nights to look out my Dad’s windows and see nothing but blackness and the ring of fire. I had Johnny Cash in my head all week – you know that song, “Ring of Fire?” The tree trunks glowed in the darkness on the horizon, bright red ember burning all night long. On Tuesday (I think?!) two days after the fire started, the police finally opened the road into the area and my Aunt and Uncle came by to check on us.

We stood outside and pointed out the property lines and where the fire had been and you know what they said? They both said that it was as if there was a dome of protection around Dad’s land. Now they aren’t believers so they didn’t quite understand why that made the rest of us crack up with laughter.

You see, my Dad has lived there for thirty years and as I said before, he’s never been threatened by a fire. He’s also never been set up to fight a fire and he’s never had a fire plan. Two weeks – just two weeks – before the February fires broke out – my Dad was woken up from a dead sleep at 3am one night. He couldn’t go back to sleep because inside his head a thought buzzed and drummed incessantly – “You need to get ready for a fire and you need to get ready now!” He got up in the middle of the night, turned on his computer and ordered his water pumps. They were delivered the next day to his work address. In the next week, he had the pumps set up, the 1000 litre tank delivered and the hoses attached. A week after that – we were fighting fires! Praise God!

That’s why when we spoke with my Aunt and Uncle we knew without a doubt that there had been a dome of protection around Dad’s land. God’s presence had been felt during the entire ordeal and even now looking out at the scorched earth, it is a reminder that God’s hand was working over those nights.

Now, I should finish by saying that I know that many people were not so lucky and I certainly don’t want to be insensitive to their feelings. I know that God is in control of every situation, including the terrible ones. If God had not protected Dad’s land, I know that it would not have been because He abandoned him in his hour of need. It would have been because He had decided to send abundant showers and it was taking the form of a loss. I have faith that He would have given us the strength to cope with it.

Anyway, thank you to all those people who heard about our situation and prayed for us. We were all praying too but we were also distracted, as I’m sure you can imagine. I just wanted to share my story with you and praise God for his many blessings. He is a faithful God.

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