You know how I know it’s summer without looking at the thermometer or calendar? The valley is full of smoke. We have smoke from the fires north of Boise, plus our weather is pulling in smoke from Oregon and northern California. Our air quality will go down until a front comes through and blows it out. Last year, our air quality reached the purple level, meaning it was hazardous to breathe. But more than the effects of smoke, I think about those men and women out there fighting the fires.
Temperatures have been in the high 90s or triple digits for several weeks. Imagine fighting a fire in 100-degree heat. Even thought they aren’t right next to the fire, what miserable working conditions! Those are tough people out there. Add in that they work 16-hour days for 14 days and you’ll understand just how tough they are. They work hard, put their lives at risk, and save a lot of houses and trees. Sadly, sometimes the wildfires get the upper hand and they are difficult to get under control.
Wildfire is its own type of beast that loves rugged places, steep canyons, and any place that has lots of fuels. The wind moves it along, pushing it as fast as it blows. If the wind is blowing hard, the fire can easily overtake people, vehicles, wildlife, animals, and any other thing trying to get away from it.
Lives have been lost in the fires in California. I remember when my son was a wildfire fighter who was gone out on a fire in another state. One day at work, I got a static-filled phone call from him. He said, “Mom, there’s been a fatality, but it’s not me.” The phone went dead after that. Those words left me shaking. I cried because I hoped he was still okay. And I cried for the mother whose son had been lost. He went to another out-of-state fire and was so sick with strep that he could hardly function. The fire camp guy finally sent him to the doctor who wanted to put him in the hospital, but my son refused. He stayed in fire camp for a few days while he took antibiotics and recovered a little before going back out on the line. Trust me, firefighters are a tough bunch.
Smart people who live in the forest make their places fire-wise, meaning they clear space around their homes. You won’t find trees and bushes growing next to their houses. Their homes don’t have wood siding or shake roofs, but fire-resistant siding, metal roofs, and fire-resistant decks. They store firewood away from their houses and clean away flammable debris. They live in places that have two ways out (no dead-end roads) so they have two routes of escape. They have fire plans in place so that if the worst happens, they can get out quickly with their most valuable possessions and their pets. Smart people often return and find their homes still there because they took precautions to help firefighters save it.
I hope you’ll say a prayer for the firefighters and the people whose lives are being upended by fire. Pray for rain and cooler temperatures. All of the West needs it.