Fire! … Every night my prayer was the same. God, place a hedge of protection around my family. In the past my family had experienced some setbacks, so I prayed daily. One night in middle of the summer, I prayed as usual then fell asleep, not realizing my family was in danger.
Two hours later something woke me. Darkness surrounded me except for the moonlight that peeked through the top of the curtains.
My husband, Evan, stirred in the bed next to me.
“What is that smell?” I said, exhaling a breath.
Evan touched my arm. “Let’s check the house.”
We walked through the house turning on lights and checked computer equipment, careful not to wake our then 20-year-old daughter who was home from college and our 16-year-old son. I stood at my daughter’s doorway. Only the scent of her perfume wafted to my nose. I stepped over to my son’s door and inhaled. No burning smell came from there either, and nothing in the whole house explained the odor.
Going back into the master bedroom, we climbed back under the covers, ready to go back to sleep.
Evan slipped his feet out of the bed. “Maybe we should check outside.”
“Okay. I’m wide awake now anyway.” We searched the house again. My husband stopped at the front door, while I walked into the kitchen and opened the door from the kitchen to the garage.
A haze of smoke hovered in the air. Shock jolted through me. “Evan, come look.” My voice vibrated with panic. I stared, knowing we must find the source.
Evan opened the garage door and pulled the van out. The smoke dispersed, and we found no trace of a fire in the garage. We had to find the cause.
I moved from my frozen position in the doorway and walked outside, looking along the wall. To my astonishment, a flame leaped out from behind the electrical meter. The wall glowed orange with fire an arm’s length in all directions.
“Evan, get the fire extinguisher!” I stared at the fire and willed the blaze to remain dormant. If the flame continued to gain momentum and reach the roof, it would take over our house. Helplessness weighed at me.
Evan came running out of the house with the fire extinguisher in his hand. Rushing to my side, he pointed the extinguisher at the flame, but no spray came out. He knocked at the nozzle. “It’s not working. Call 9-1-1! It’s an electrical fire. We can’t use water on it.”
I ran into the kitchen to find the house pitch black. I wasn’t sure if the power was off because of damage from the fire or what. I picked up the telephone. No dial tone. My mind whirled. I couldn’t think straight. Not wanting to take time to figure out which telephones worked and which ones didn’t, I retrieved my cell phone from my purse in the dining room and dialed 9-1-1.
The 9-1-1 operator answered.
“Our house… our house is on fire.” I struggled to form coherent words. Finally, I gave her our address. My hands shook. I hurried to my son and daughter’s doorways and took a deep breath. I forced my voice to sound calm and unhurried, not wanting to alarm them. “Jessica. Wesley. I need you to come outside. We’ve discovered a fire in the back wall of the house. I need you to wait outside until its safe.” I pushed down the sense of panic and danger that ran wild through my senses and threatened to take over my emotions. I found no need to traumatize them.
Seconds ticked off as my husband and I paced the front yard while Jessica and Wesley sat wrapped in their blankets on the grass. I pictured the flame running along the wall of our house and ran back to look at the fire’s progress. I sucked in a breath of relief that it had not changed. The stench of the fire filled my senses, reminding me that the danger wasn’t over. A feeling of urgency had me clenching my hands into a fist at my side. Soon we heard sirens draw close. The first person to arrive in response to the 9-1-1 call was a female police officer.
“We have a fire on the back wall of our house, and our fire extinguisher is broken.” My voice quivered in distress.
“I have one.” She ran to her police cruiser and pulled out an extinguisher.
“Follow me.” Evan sprinted to the back of the house. The officer and I followed close behind. The fire radiated bright orange but cutting the electricity had slowed the progress and provided us time. The officer lifted the extinguisher and sprayed. Smoke billowed from the wall. Relief whooshed through me. Moments later, firemen leaped from their truck and accessed if any fire remained. Soon the sound of axes hacking the wall reached me. I walked away unable to bear the thought of someone hacking away at the wall of my home. They put out more embers hidden from our view. “How can I be sure all the fire is out?” I asked one of the firemen.
“Don’t worry, ma’am. We got it all,” the lead fireman said. Then he listened to our story and said he needed to find the cause of the fire before leaving.
Within a few minutes, an electrician arrived and inspected the results of the fire. “Good save! The fire started due to loose wiring. This sometimes happens in old houses.”
The next day, a carpenter friend of ours from church was amazed when he saw the charred wall of our home. “You could all have been killed.” He stood, gaping at the wall.
Regardless of the close call of that night, in two days we had a new wall rebuilt and electricity back. The incident was so minor our local newspaper didn’t mention it. But for me it was huge. In my heart I had seen how close our safety and security had been threatened. A small flame could have become a large one. We were literally seconds from a serious catastrophe. I saw how fragile life is as well. We could have easily lost everything, including our lives. For days I felt God’s presence with a love that was personal—like that of a parent or spouse who loves in a special way, yet closer and deeper. Joy and comfort filled me at the thought of His nearness. God had heard my prayer.
For me, what is most special in the whole experience is the realization that if the fire had gone out of control and caused our family great loss, God would still be with me, comforting me with His love. He is greater than all that happens to me. If I have troubles and heartache, I will look for Him because I will find Him right there beside me.