I was at Boy Scout Camp when I discovered the terrible damage a fire storm could do to my life. It was a lazy afternoon very hot and dry. John and I were sent back to camp to start dinner for the guys. When I got back to camp, I discovered that the camp fire looked as if it had gone out. So I decided to rebuild the fire to get it ready for our meal. So I gathered firewood and placed it on the coals and tried to get it to burn. It would not start, so I decided to pour some kerosene on the wood, figuring it would help get the fire started sooner so that John and I could start dinner sooner for the troop.
So I poured the kerosene on the wood, and all of a sudden the fire ignited. It then traveled up the liquid and into the can I was holding in my hand. Within seconds, the can exploded in my hand, sending burning kerosene streaming in every direction. Most of the burning fuel landed on my lower right leg, and it burst into flames.
It was so surreal. I looked down as the heat started piercing through to my leg, and I began screaming. I was 12 years old, and my leg was burning out of control. I screamed for help and threw myself to the ground. I began to roll and roll, and the more I rolled the more the ground burst into flames around me. I rolled into a tent, and it caught on fire. I was screaming because of the pain and crying out for help. I started thinking, "This is it. I am going to burn to death," and right at that moment another Boy Scout came to my rescue. John had a blanket in his hand, and he grabbed me and wrapped it around my leg to put out the fire. Once he put out my leg, he then proceeded to put out the tent and the burning ground around us.
I laid there in shock and disbelief with horrible pain throbbing up my leg. John held me and asked me to hang in there, because he was going to get me help. He ran like the wind for about a mile to the first aid head quarters in the park. I laid there all alone on the ground thinking, "Why did I do that!" Then the thought crept in: "Is this it?" It seemed as if I laid there forever starring up into the blue sky.
The Park Rangers came and the troop leaders came as fast as they could. As they pulled the blanket off of my leg, part of my jeans and burnt flesh came off with it. They cut my jeans off immediately and started cleaning out my badly burned leg. I screamed in pain. I heard one man get sick and throw up and another say, "Oh my Lord!"
I was burned from my ankle to just above the knee. I still remember the awful smell of burnt flesh rising off my leg. All I could do was moan and cry because of the excruciating pain inflicted from this fire. All I could do was keep asking questions, "What happened? Where did the fire come from? Why did this happen to me?" I was stunned by how quickly I had caught on fire.
It took the troop leaders 4 hours before they finally got me to a hospital. It was a horrible 4-hour trip from the mountains to the hospital. As I rode in a truck, I just moaned as my driver, a Boy Scout leader, just encouraged me to hang in there. I remember he turned his air conditioning onto the floor section so that cold air could blow onto my leg. My flesh was hanging off, and I was wishing for a miracle as I looked at my deformed leg. I thought this could not be my leg.
When we arrived at the hospital the doctors started to work on my leg immediately. They cleaned it up and put salve on it then wrapped with burn wrap. My mom showed up at the hospital in tears asking, "What happened?" The doctors informed my mom that I had second and third degree burns on the lower half of my leg. I remember the doctor telling her the importance of making sure that my leg did not become infected.
So daily she would clean my leg off. I would not look at my leg – my mom said it looked horrible, almost like hamburger. But eventually I did heal.
I often think about that day. It is etched into my memory forever. It was the painful day because I became a victim of a fire storm. I learned a few lessons that day that I will never forget: "Do not dump Kerosene on hot coals!" The biggest lesson I learned that day was not to be careless with a fire. I discovered the hard way that fire is hot and it burns very quickly and it does maximum damage in short amount of time. The firestorm I experienced lasted for minutes but caused major damage to my leg and it took months to heal. I still have scars on my lower leg from that fire storm. It reminds me as I look at that scar the danger of fire storms and how painful they can be.
Firestorms happen in this world every day--firestorms in relationships flare up doing maximum damage in a short period of time. A situation or word is misunderstood and the fire ignites scorching and burning up everything in sight.
A few years back I read the book "Firestorms." The author Susek warned about the danger, the destruction and the damage that firestorms can do to a church, an organization or even a family unit. He shared true to life horror stories of Christians acting like raging firestorms and leaving a path of destruction in churches, in communities, in families and in individual lives. He shared the tragic stories to warn us Christians, leaders, and pastors how to prevent firestorms in our relationship’s, he stressed how to put fires out quickly in relationships, and even how to rebuild relationships after a firestorm.
Dr. Robert said, "No church is more than twenty-four hours away from a major conflict breaking out. In less than a year, it can destroy years of hard work and growth" (Firestorms, page 12).
He spoke about the danger and the ferocity of firestorms. He warned us that once a firestorm ignites it causes damage quickly to the surrounding terrain and races off to burn up whatever is in its path. They move fast and quickly across the landscape burning everything up in sight. They are dangerous and destructive. They have even been known to be brief but so intense that they cause maximum loss in a short period of time.
So we need to learn how to become fire fighters if we want to preserve our family relationships, our friendship relationships, our church relationships, our community relationships and our individual relationships.
Firestorms come in many forms and can ignite in any type of a life situation.
(From a sermon by Michael McCartney, Experience the Spirit in Conflict, 4/7/2011)
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