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When the smoke clears

A BIC firefighter battles against flames and discouragement in wildfires of California

by Kirsten Grubb

The roar of the fire was deafening. The heat, unbearable. The flames, relentless. Mike Demoff, a new member of GracePoint BIC (Ontario, Calif.) and a firefighter in his second year with Station 74 in Fontana, Calif., struggled to see beyond the bright flames that pierced the smoky darkness around him. Assigned to structure protection, the husband and father of three fought with all his might to save a home succumbing to the inferno, dreading the command from his captain to “Move on!”

For eight days in late October 2007, 14,000 acres of forest burned in the San Bernardino Mountains, destroying 450 structures. The area was devastated. “It looked like someone dropped a nuclear bomb,” Mike, who has been involved in emergency response for 12 years, recalls. “It looked like the moon.”

As the smoke from the fires cleared, however, Mike found that he had another battle to fight. Only this time, it was a spiritual one that threatened his newly rededicated faith. When encountering an entire street of destroyed homes with the exception of one house, questions flooded his mind: Why this house? Why this family? Who are these people?

Yet amidst the chaos, God provided Mike with understanding, so that as he looked upon the anguish of those who had lost their homes, he felt compassion. Mike learned to focus on the most important things in life: “Houses can be rebuilt. Material possessions are just things. I was reminded that if everyone is alive, then that’s a good thing.”

This article originally appeared in the spring 2008 issue of In Part magazine.

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