There’s nothing more powerful than fire.
That’s not a true statement, because certain natural and manmade forces do exceed flames in what destruction, and sometimes benefits, they can do. However, the strike of a match, a bit of friction or a flash of lightning ignites incomprehensible authority.
At this time every year, we are reminded just what a blaze can do, as the Flint Hills turn from brown to black instantaneously, and hopefully green again in a few days. “Don’t play with matches” is the common order of parents to their children, who have no conception of what can happen when the spark flares.
Even we in maturity can easily forget until we are reminded, hopefully without too much harm. Wildfires consuming vast timbers and taking homes, even communities, are commonplace, but seem far away unless it’s one’s own or have a close personal impact.
We’ve always found fire useful, as since grade school it has been our daily duty to burn the home trash; a task we continue today. Likewise, we have forever been frequent burners of brush and other debris around the ranch.
Although Grandma Buchman told us about the fire that had destroyed her family’s home and personal belongings, it seemed ancient to us then. However, in 1978 when we got the call from Mom that our grocery store was ablaze, we instantly felt those horrors.
A water heater flame jumped from inside to a can of gas being used to clean tar from jeans, and almost immediately spread to the roof. Black smoke hurled into the air, visible at our home 15 miles away. From that day forward, we respected fire’s power.
Yet in our first personal prairie burn, we took creosote “to help start” the grass on the
windiest day. No assistance was needed. That 30 mile-per-hour bluster almost grabbed the match out of our hand, and flame spread so fast the neighbor a mile away was certain it was going to take his home before firemen arrived. We never forgot that either.
Almost inconceivable that even in the Flint Hills, range fires can go hundreds of miles, as one did a few years ago, spreading into six counties, including our pastures, before finally being controlled.
Stopping the spread is often impossible, and anything in the way will be destroyed. Lives are lost each year during prairie burns. Additionally, smoke from the blazes cause many hazards, notably traffic accidents, and now environmental contamination.
Worst aspect of all is that fires don’t die easily. A number of times, we’ve assumed a fire was out, and it would come back to life. One spark can follow a mouse trail or cattle path and renew itself to do major damage, such as destroy a bulldozer on our
Fire has been a powerful influence since the beginning, being referred to at least 519 times in the Bible. Warning is given in Job 31:12: “For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction.” Most important is the message in Second Peter 3:7: “But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire, being kept until the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly people.”