On Sunday, January 1, 2006, wildfires swept through our area, destroying homes and land. Our farm and orchard were affected by this as well. We could have never imagined such a disaster. We will attempt to tell what happened and give a picture of what it was like.
As church services were ending Sunday morning, local farmers and ranchers were concerned to see smoke in the vicinity of their homes and farms.
People hurried home with neighbors following to help. Brawner and Nell Files got home and had little time to think about what to do. Friends and neighbors had followed them home Some pulled pictures from the walls and trying to help collect special things that would be hard to replace. Some helped move equipment. Brawner realized the danger the cows were in and quickly turned them out of the pasture onto the road. He led them to a pecan orchard owned by our neighbor that was plowed. He hoped they would have a better chance of surviving there. Thankfully, they did. We didn’t lose any cattle to the fire. The authorities came and told them to leave the house. They could only watch and pray as the fire raged closer and they had to leave.
We, (David and Nichola), were on our way home from Houston. Nichola had just had the second treatment of chemotherapy the day before. We were at Mart, close to Waco, when we got a call at about 4 pm from our pastor. He asked if we had heard from David’s parents recently. We hadn’t. He then let us know that Carbon had been evacuated due to a large wildfire. There wasn’t enough information at that point to know if our houses were standing or not. We tried calling but the phones only rang. We found out later that our house had already burned at that point.
We made it to Gorman where our pastor lived just as the sun was going down. David, our pastor and another friend worked their way to our property. Everywhere fence posts and trees were still glowing with embers. Embers were blowing and flames were being fanned by a strong wind. They made it to David’s parents house
first. It was still standing, but the wooden fence beside the house was on fire. They moved the fence away from the house. The storage buildings, well house and the wood pile that were next to the house were gone. There was also nothing left of their two barns, tractor shed and workshop. He then went to check our house. He found everything destroyed and still ablaze with fire.
Here is an excerpt from David’s journal.
“…There was a road block on Hwy 6 at DeLeon. They said we could go on through if we were going to Gorman so we went. We got to pastor Dane’s house. Pastor Dane offered to take me and Randy McDaris on to my place to see what was going on.
Not far out of Gorman we could see the fire and then the people all lined up on the Hwy that had fled their homes. We went south on the back roads through Jewel, Centerpoint and Brown. We couldn’t get down 1027 so we went farther west. Just as we crossed the Sabanna we got into the back of the fire. After that everything was on fire. Trees were burning way up in the tops. I had never seen anything like it. We made it almost to my parent’s house when we came up on a huge oak tree in the road. Dane had a chain saw so we made it through.
We pulled up in the front yard, the yard fence was all down and burning. Next I noticed the tractor sheds were gone, then the barns. I couldn’t hardly believe it. How could this happen?
We went on. Cathy and Richard’s house was ok. We went to our house, by now I was riding in the back of the pickup so I could see better. Well, the house was completely gone and so was the shop. The new house was all that was left.
We got a call. Gorman was being evacuated so we went back. I got my family and came back to Mama and Daddy’s place. By that time they were home. I was glad we made it back from Houston when we did. Although I wish I could have been here to help with the fire. We couldn’t sleep that night, everywhere you could look out and see fire burning somewhere. I spent most of the night driving around talking
to others that were doing the same. The next morning finally arrived. We just walked around looking at the damage. We had no water, phone or power. There were helicopters and planes fighting the fires just south and east of us. The fire just kept going….”
“…It was a shocking feeling, nothing looked the same. The woods burned, the tractor, greenhouse and all the supplies, the reefer truck. There was nothing left except the new house, pickup, tricycle and Keilah’s bicycle. The ground was all black mixed with sand, lots of sand had blown around onto the roads and stuff. Burnt tin was scattered like a tornado had come through.”
It was very strange after the fire. Nothing looked the same. Nothing smelled or really felt the same. It was hard to believe that it was the same place. Not just a few things were changed, everything was changed. Even the things that were still standing were changed in some way.
Brawner and Nell almost lost their house 5 different times. Thankfully, each time fire got on it, someone found it and put it out. The heat at the back of the house was so intense that it drew the rosin out of the wood, broke a window, and badly damaged a plant inside the house. It was a miracle that their house survived.
With the devastation and destruction all around us, it was incredible to see what we believe was another miracle standing in the midst of the path of the fire.
When David turned and looked that night he was shocked to see the house that was given to us in 2004, still standing. On closer examination a few days later, it was evident that to see it standing was not a mere coincidence. It was not even touched by the fire. The fire swept passed this house with exposed wood and shingle roof and consumed David’s metal shop and our home. As you can see in the photos on the left and right, the grass and leaves next to the house were left untouched, while all around it they were burned. (In the picture of our burned house, above, you can see this house
standing in the background.) Our 4 year old said “God said, “No, fire, you can’t touch our new house,” and He picked up the fire and set it down on the other side.” Standing next to the house, it really looked that way.
Another amazing thing was the tree in the front yard of the new house. It too was untouched by the fire. When it started to bloom and put leaves on we felt that we got a glimpse into the fire.
Many of the trees that were affected by the fire did put on leaves, but very slowly and like the heat had affected them. The tree in front of our house was not slow in putting on new leaves anywhere on in, except on the side furthermost away from the house. It seemed to show that there had been heat that passed by but there was a pocket of cooler air. We don’t know just what happened or how God preserved this house. All we know it that He did and we are thankful and in awe of His power.
We stayed with Brawner and Nell after the fire. A friend’s friend kindly offered to let us use their 30′ travel trailer while we got our new house ready to move into. So when we got power and water that we could hook up to, we stayed in that.
That is, until the water froze, misc. power issues arose, or the weather turned too cold to heat with electric heaters. Then we all packed up and camped on Brawner and Nell’s floor again. We also had to make 2 more trips to Houston for chemotherapy treatment. When we got back we would stay at Brawner and Nell’s while Nichola recovered from the chemo treatments for a few days.
This is what we did until March 13, 2006. We had done a lot of work on the house and although it was not complete and we had little furniture, we moved in that night to avoid a cold front that moved into the area. We have been in the house ever since. (And it has been very nice to spread out a bit after living in a trailer! :-))
After the fire we had many volunteers come and help us. The outpouring of help from area neighbors, churches and businesses was incredible to say the least. People came from everywhere bring water, food, labor, supplies and financial help. Our families and all the families that were touched by the fire were helped and blessed by the generosity of friends and even strangers. We could write and tell story after story of needs that were met and help that was given. To any of you who helped us that are reading this, thank you. Your kindness has meant so much to us and warmed our hearts.