Windblown. Physically and emotionally.
This was a rough weekend around here. Sustained winds around 40mph for going on four days with stronger gusts. Prairie fires. Branches down. March comes in like a lion, right?
The wind has this claustrophobic affect on me. It makes me tense and jittery, which is overwhelming. Although the sun is shining and the temperatures are mid-70’s, I don’t want to be outside. The dust is roiling down the road. The scent of smoke tinges the brown air.
I’m feeling beat up. I believe many around here reciprocate that sensation.
Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are on fire. I don’t mean the nice kind with beer and marshmallows and chocolate and fire pits. I mean literally, on fire. Burning down houses. Killing animals and tragically, in the Texas panhandle, people too.
Prairie fires have been occurring for thousands of years. They are nature’s way of controlling invasive species, refreshing and renewing the soil with nutrients, and just plain doing “clean-up.” Usually, to prevent wildfires and promote growth of grass, burning is done on a permit basis depending on the weather and moisture levels.
This winter and spring, the clouds didn’t drop much moisture. The weather warmed up quickly. Too quick. The weather pattern set up for strong winds. Kansas is usually windswept… but as I told a customer today in the office, this is abnormally windy. Perfect conditions for prairie fires.
90% of the firefighters in Kansas are volunteers. The men and women who fight the flames have day jobs or night jobs or both. They go to trainings and “Rural Fire District” meetings in the evening once or twice a month. They do not get paid for their time or effort. It can be extremely draining, especially when you are fighting for your neighbor’s livelihood or life.
To support these volunteers as they fight fires in and around their communities, there are yet more volunteers providing food, water, blankets, shelter, and other resources when the needs arise. Currently, there are people flooding in from rural volunteer districts to help with the large fires across the state.
I believe I’ve mentioned before that us Midwesterners are a friendly sort. We’ll talk to you even if we don’t know you. Honestly, we expect you to talk back. We wave when we meet people on the road even if we don’t know you. We would like it if you’d wave back – or at least give the head nod acknowledging the wave. This is exactly the type of spirit you find in our rural fire districts and the volunteers that support them.
Although these fires are devastating, I’ve always been one to search for the bright side. The rays of light in this are the rallying cries of people coming together to support each other – to fight the flames together – to say we’re here for you. Don’t give up.
If you are the praying sort (I am), please pray for all those involved in the fires. Pray for rain and a calm day. And as in all things, give thanks for how we grow and connect in these situations.