Fire and nature

FL-prescribed burnRight now there are some big fires burning outside of Los Angeles. The media wants to make this a Los Angeles fire, but it really isn’t. The big Station fire is mostly burning in the wild areas to the north of the populated areas.

Fire confuses us. On the one hand, it gives us warmth and provides energy for many things. On the other hand, it can quickly burn down a home and or destroy a business.

For some people, fire related to God is seen only as fire from hell, as punishment. Yet fire is also a way that God has spoken to people throughout the Bible, from the burning bush and Moses to I Kings 18:24, “…the god who answers by fire is indeed God.” These are not negative or bad things, but a positive use of fire. Fire is dramatic, but then so can be God. Fire in the wild can be a mesmerizing thing, something wild and uncontrolled by man. Maybe that is why fire has often symbolized God’s speaking to man.

The Station fire has covered 226 square miles. Note I did not say it destroyed that area. It didn’t, no matter what the news media has said. Much of Southern California is chaparral, a landscape that does burn. However, the plants growing there are adapted to recovery from fire. Few woody plants are actually killed. Most resprout quickly after a fire. In addition, there are many plants whose seeds only sprout after fire or smoke.

It would seem that God has made this land to meet specific environmental conditions. Those conditions can mean drought and dry weather, so the plants and animals that live there adapt. Such conditions can also mean fires, so the plants and animals adapt to that, too. For man to be horrified and feel the fires are only destructive is to be man centered, and to me, a bit arrogant that somehow we know better than God what is right for the world.

This is not to say that fires aren’t a problem. A big challenge is how we build homes and businesses into areas that are likely to burn. One answer that short-sighted folks have is to bulldoze the plants, the chaparral instead of appreciating it for the miracle of life in a specific environment. Are we to believe God randomly created chaparral for us to destroy as we desire? Bulldozing chaparral is far worse than fire. The challenge is living with this place with understanding and smart building rather than trying to impose arbitrary man-based ideas on a world that was not made for that. Lives and buildings can be protected through¬†proper community design and fire preparation around homes, not trying to strip the backcountry of native plant communities, ecosystems that have long been adapted to the conditions here.

The fire in the photo here is from a prescribed burn in Florida. Such fires keep the long-life pine/wiregrass ecosystem healthy and less likely to burn inappropriately. Unfortunately, such fires are not appropriate for chaparral as the ecosystem is not the same. Some people want to apply ideas from one area blindly to another rather than understanding how every ecosystem is unique. I believe we need to understand and appreciate God’s world as it is, not make it into something else that is centered on man’s ego. I like the expression I heard the other day that ego is Edge God Out. Our ego can make us believe we know everything about the world and how to control it, but as these fires in Southern California prove, that is far from the truth.

— Rob