The Hope House staff responded quickly to a recent brush fire that threatened the facility. Thankfully no one was injured.
Another Hope House volunteer and I were coming back from lunch on Friday (the 13th) when we noticed smoke rising from our mountain neighborhood. It was not a particularly great sign but I was comforted by the observation that the fire seemed too far north to be our problem. I was mistaken. As we drew closer to campus it became clear that the threat to us was immediate. The fire was at our doorstep.
A scorching hot sun and seven months without a proper rain meant there was plenty of tinder in the field sitting across from our wood shop and aquaponics system. We jumped out of the car and joined the flurry of bodies filling up buckets of water to wet the ground and keep the flames from catching on our side of the street.
The smoke filled the air with a smell like that of a bonfire and many of us wore masks as we worked away. The director, the administrator, the counselors—everyone—was doing anything they could to keep the flames at bay. It was fifteen long minutes after we showed up before the first fire truck arrived to lend a hand. There was the faintest hope that it would wrap up quickly. But it would not be so.
The fire burned right up to the street next to Hope House but the campus was spared any damage.
The fire found new kindling down the street from us and the wind caught at the same time. I watched in amazement as the fire jumped across the street and caught on the other side. A road still separated the Hope House from the flames but we now had threats on two sides.
One of the oldest boys had helped me fill a 20 gallon bucket which we were carrying toward the street when the fire roared up again and sent a dark cloud of smoke and ash whirling into the air. It was too close at that point. We dropped the bucket and started ushering everyone into cars and the van.
The bumpy ride down the hill was surreal. Every second that passed the fire slipped further and further out of sight. Everyone made it to the entrance without a hitch. There the air was clear and untouched by flames. In the calm, some level-headed decisions had to be made.
Some of the men and our director bravely determined to go back up and do what they could to help the firemen and save important documents, if it came to that. The rest of us purchased provisions and shuttled the children to a park by the lake, far from the chaos, where they could play and be kids. Off we went to our posts. It was several hours later, around 6pm, that we received good news: the fire had died down. Hope House was safe. The kids would sleep elsewhere that night, but it was over.
For those of us involved, it’s clear God had a providential hand in keeping us safe. With fire raging on two sides, we had no injuries or loss of life; our campus received zero fire or smoke damage; no documents or funds were lost. Praise God.
The brush has been completely cleared from the land surrounding Hope House.
One consequence of crisis situations such as this is that eyes are opened to blind spots. Along one of the Hope House’s walls are three plots of land filled with dry brush. This week our director rented a front loader to clear it as a preventative measure. It was a wise but financially expensive move. Please consider a donation to our General Operations fund to help cover this extra cost.