Heat and drought have combined to make this a brutal fire season. Many parts of the West have been affected. Northeastern Montana has been particularly hard-hit. Homes, crops and livestock have been destroyed. On Sunday a fire emergency was declared for the entire state of Montana. There are more than two dozen major fires burning. Homes are being evacuated. Ranchers have had to cut their fences to release cattle from oncoming flames. But the cattle are still in danger, lacking food and drink. The firefighters working on the largest fires will soon be supplemented by the National Guard.
Fire is not somebody else’s problem. It is our problem. We are in this together. Volunteers are gearing up with donations of fencing, hay and cash, as well as labor. Our office got an inquiry from an Iowa synod, remembering how they did a hay lift to drought-stricken Texas a few years ago and wondering if it would be welcome in our territory.
Dick Deschamps, our synod’s Disaster Coordinator and liaison to Lutheran Disaster Response, is chair of the Montana State VOAD. They coordinate and communicate volunteer efforts in responding to disaster. For information about needs and places to drop off or request donations, go to www.northernag.net.
Look for more information in this week’s e-news, as well as opportunities to contribute and to help. In response to tornadoes in southeastern Montana last year, the Montana Synod set up as disaster fund. We will accept donations for the fire damage, and requests for assistance.
Pastor Jean Larson has reflected on fire and its impact. She wrote this prayer:
O God of Grand Design,
As fire eats our land, give strength to our neighbors who work and suffer in these flames:
Those who must flee,
Cattle and horses and all creatures,
Those who must rebuild homes and livelihoods.
Yet even in this struggle, open our hearts to the mystery of your Creation
that brings new life through fire,
as pinecones burst, forests are pruned, and grasslands grow lush – next year.
Holy Spirit, Refiner’s Fire, kindle in us a brave thanksgiving for all your good gifts.
And help us live humbly and wisely, as servants of your earth.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA