Monster Fire Day 7 in Redding

Thank you to all who care to read this, and especially to those who are praying.

About 38,000 people have evacuated. That’s a lot for Redding, a city of 92,000 residents. But I guess if you count the outskirts, we probably number well over 120,000 or so. Still, at least a quarter of us are displaced.

Most of us here are okay, but so sad for those who are not. Oh, for the family who lost their 4 year old and 5 year old in the fire along with the children’s great grandmother (age 70). According to the Sacramento Bee, those precious kids were being raised by their great grandparents. Can you imagine how the great grandfather must feel? His name is Ed Bledsoe, and I hope we all pray for him fervently.

Last night the Carr fire, named after Carr Powerhouse Road where the fire began, burned another 15,000 acres, only a 6% increase given the 100 square mile spread that officials have had to stake out as a war zone.

Given that the fire defied what was initially called “lines of containment,” officials are being strict about their use of the word contained. Their concern is that the fire may yet again spread by sending sparks ahead again or jumping over the river again or coming through the drainage again or doing something bizarre again. If you watch footage you will see that this wildfire is an autonomous, recalcitrant, apocalyptic behemoth. Unless the fire authorities have secured, defensible space on both sides of the fire line, officials no longer consider it “contained.”

To give you an abbreviated history, the fire started out in French Gulf covering 1000 acres that were soon 24% contained, but then they said 10% contained, and when the fire jumped over the line of we-thought-it-was-contained, and tripled in size, it resulted in only 3% containment. After that, they got it up to 5% containment for a couple of days.

After a town meeting I attended yesterday, one of the firefighters showed me a map of where the real 5% containment is located. It is a 5 mile stretch at least several miles northwest of the city of Redding, not by anyone’s home.

At the town meeting I learned directly from officials that as of yesterday, this fire was five times bigger than the past 5 biggest fires in our area combined. As of now, it must be over six or seven times larger than anything ever seen up here before.

The good news is the fire has not made progress nearer to Redding. The temperature was only 100 degrees today as opposed to the 109 degree forecast (because the smoke provides a shield against the sun), and the army of 3500 firefighters including 360 firetrucks/aircrafts/bulldozers
were able to make some moralizing progress. The fire burned into some grasslands which gave the fighters space to switch from playing defense to playing offense.

In fact, I just got word that it is 17% contained.

Still there are miles and miles and miles of a monstrous conflagration that is still increasing in size (now 95,000+ acres–it’s over twice the geographical size of Redding), still producing a fire vortex, and still jeering overall at the very heroic firefighters who must be beyond exhausted.

Lord, please for the firefighters, for them to sleep, recuperate, and be blessed with remarkable stamina. Please bless their families with Your peace and grant them extra grace as a reward.

Another prayer request: With 38,000 announced evacuees comes unconscionable, scrappy crime in the form of looting. The looting got so bad that the government brought in 150(?) military police to guard people’s belongings. It is a felony to steal from those who can’t be home to guard their own property due to this regional calamity.

Last thing: Air quality. Some Reddingtons are traveling to escape the unhealthy air. I am constantly checking the air quality, and right now, as I type, it looks like roughly 60% of California has bad air, a consequence of having 17 concurrent major fires that I wish would be regarded by us California residents as wake-up calls to remind us of our desperate need for God.

To me, the unity between all the workers, both on site and off, is itself a lovely glimpse of accessible evidence that we are all created in God’s image.

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