My weather app alerted me to a high fire risk alert a few days ago for both my area and my hometown, where my mom still lives on the family farm.
I live in central Illinois. Not California or Oregon or Colorado. I do not remember ever receiving a high fire risk alert. I mean, I knew conditions were not great—very dry with winds picking up the following day, but a high fire risk, really?
The next afternoon, I saw a social media post. Fire departments were called to a field fire just outside my hometown. I immediately checked to see how close it was to my mom. I breathed a sigh of relief but thought of others I knew that lived relatively close. I watched a variety of social media posts as more fire departments responded, roads were shut down, and farmers were asked to jump on their equipment and go to the area to start turning the ground.
The photos are grainy because of the smoke and distance, but just take a look.
That fire moved quickly, but because of the first responders and farmers, no lives, homes or other buildings were lost. (Yes, unharvested fields were destroyed.) While firefighters fought the blaze, and law enforcement managed traffic and safety, farmers did what they know what to do best: work the land and help each other. They worked ahead of the fire, digging up the earth to create a barrier to the fire. They tore up the ground around neighbors’ property to protect it.
Community in action.
The timing of it is not lost on me. Between concerns (or lack of them) over COVID and the upcoming elections, we don’t have to work hard to find ways we disagree with people in our communities. We have heated conversations, and we easily get irritated with people. Yet all that was dropped in the (literal) heat of the moment. Later that evening as I read through personal updates, my tears fell in appreciation for the people of my hometown. And perhaps some of those tears were in gratitude for the reminder of the goodness among people in the midst of a really tough season across communities. Growing up in a small farming community taught me a lot—information and skills I keep in my mind, but even more, experiences and connections I keep in my heart and apply every day. I am better because of my hometown community.
To my people in Carlinville, thank you for the reminder of what a community can do when they come together. Not just the first responders and farmers but the people who delivered water and food, helped with traffic, and checked on people. Even the two people I asked permission to share these photos did not want personal credit. One said, “Please don’t give me credit. That’s not what it’s about. Awareness and community are the winners.” The other said, “Please don’t credit me. Credit all the first responders and the farmer brotherhood.”