A lost backpacker started a fire that became one of Arizona's most devastating fires eventually burning hundreds of thousands of acres. She'd been lost in the arid Arizona wilderness for two nights and desperately tried to get the attention of a TV helicopter passing overhead.
Thirty-one-year-old Valinda Elliott was stunned when told her fire, started with a lighter, had become part of a raging inferno that destroyed 475 homes and scorched more than 470,000 acres before being brought under control.
“You can’t blame me for saving my life,” Elliot said, wiping tears from her face during her first interview since being rescued by the helicopter. “If there was some other way I could have gotten that helicopter’s attention, I would have used it. If they want me to apologize for saving my life, then tell them I’m sorry,” she said.
The blazing wildfire she started merged with the “Rodeo” fire creating the largest and most devastating fire in Arizona history. The combined fires burned through a number of communities and forced over 30,000 people to flee from their homes. Ironically, the “Rodeo” fire was started by a part-time firefighter from the Fort Apache Indian Reservation who had been looking for work.
Elliot, on the other hand, had walked most of the day and was worn out and desperate. She said she drank from muddy pools, had nothing to eat and worried she would never be found. Once she realized she’d lost sight of the road, she started screaming for help and waving a towel as helicopters flew overhead. When that was unsuccessful, she used her lighter to set fire to a small bush to attract the attention of the helicopter that would eventually rescue her.
Granted, it’s an unusual story. But, in spite of the devastation and loss to the state of Arizona, a life was saved. And isn’t that the real priority? I wonder how many of us would do the same thing given the same circumstances? Would you start a fire to save your own life? Would you start a fire to save the lives of others?
Years ago, people would talk about being “on fire” for God or being “fired up” up for the Lord. Whatever happened to all that? Today, unfortunately, it seems that for the most part, the fired up crowd has all but burned out. People want to be politically correct instead and want to be as inoffensive as possible.
Too many churches have redesigned their facilities and ministries to comfort the masses instead of converting them. Outreach and evangelism are hardly mentioned anymore. The term soul winning has become a long forgotten relic from yesteryear. Some are suggesting we need to stop referring to unsaved people as “lost” and yet, are you ready for this ... more people are headed for Hell right now than any other time in human history.
While I would never recommend anyone having a lighter, it would be remarkably refreshing to see some folks get fired up again about people going to a real, literal, fiery Hell.
Don’t worry, you’ll never have to apologize for getting fired up to save the lives of others. In fact, you’re more likely to hear, “Well done.”
© 2014. Barry L. Cameron.
"Woman describes ordeal that led her to light fire,” 13 Jul. 2002, 1 Aug. 2014 <http://lubbockonline.com/stories/071302/nat_0713020051.shtml>.
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Today, more than 8,000 people call Crossroads their church home. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.