Current Fires Ignite Painful Memories


SANTA ROSA, CA (August 3, 2018) – Although the monstrous Carr fire burning in northern California and others in the area pose no immediate threat to this community, the current blazes bring back horrible memories of the Tubbs fire last October, said Scott Peterson, pastor of children’s ministry at Bayside Covenant Church Santa Rosa.

The fire is one of nearly 20 that have burned in the state, including the Napa fire, which occurred north of the city several weeks ago. It was close enough that the Santa Rosa residents could see the smoke.

Twenty-six families from the church (formerly Redwood Covenant Church) lost their homes in the first days of the Tubbs fire, and Peterson spent a week living at the church working with others to help people who were forced from their homes. (He wrote a  reflection on the experience, published in the March/April issue of the Companion.)

Peterson said he was fortunate that his neighborhood ultimately was spared last year, but he adds, “Those who lost homes all say, ‘It feels a little weird looking at the smoke.’ We all know what those folks are going through and even though we are still very much in the recovery process ourselves we have reached out to support our neighbors and can fully empathize with what they’re experiencing.”

He added, “I used to think a fire that is twenty miles away posed no danger and to not worry. I don’t think that way anymore and, honestly, it makes us a little edgy.”

The other fires continue to make their presence known, even if they are not in the immediate vicinity of the Santa Rosa church or other Covenant congregations.

Map of fires in California

“This past Sunday, I awoke to an ash-covered neighborhood and the familiar smell of smoke in the air,” Peterson said. “It was a light dusting but enough to be disconcerting. On my way home I drove north and could see a pyrocumulus cloud quickly building, looking like a Midwest thunderhead, knowing that underneath that monster something violent was happening.”

The Tubbs fire was the most destructive in the state’s history. The Carr fire, which was sparked when a car’s wires shorted on July 23 near Redding, is now the sixth most destructive.  It has consumed 132,000 acres and claimed six lives.

The fire is so massive and so hot that it has caused its own weather patterns, including tornadoes of fire that have sucked up trees and the roofs of homes.

California officials say numerous large fires are the “new normal” for the state and note that the fire season is just beginning.


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About the Author

Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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