Our area experienced one of the earliest fires of the season beginning on 12 June. Perhaps our dry spell began sooner than elsewhere. May was very summery – a welcome change after a long winter. The sandy soil on the cliffs and the plants growing there had dried out. Tinder dry.The fire on St Bees Head was visible from our windows. Although almost a mile away, at times we could see flames as well as smoke.
|The evening the fire started|
|Smoking cliffs on 13 June|
The fire was declared a major incident; many fire crews and appliances worked day and night for a few days to extinguish it. The popular footpath nearby (on the Coast to Coast walk and Cumbrian Coastal path) was closed to the public. Even after the first rain the fire wasn’t completely extinguished. Fortunately they managed to prevent it spreading to a seabird nesting site, but there was damage to other wildlife (especially spiders) and plants.
|Emergency vehicles in the distant fields near the cliffs on 14 June|
Later some crews were sent from Cumbria with specialist equipment to provide support to crews in Greater Manchester or Lancashire fighting one of the bigger fires on Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill.
I was reminded of the imagery in the Bible of fire. The tongues of flame at Pentecost. Elijah calling down fire, when the prophets of Baal were unable to gain the attention of their god. Perhaps you can think of some more examples.
Last autumn I attended a Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) event in Carlisle Cathedral. Members of choirs from near and far within the large diocese spent an afternoon rehearsing and then singing a special service, Reform and Renewal. An anthem we sang was by John Ireland, who died in 1962. ‘Greater love’ begins with the words, ‘Many waters cannot quench love.’
Quench. A word we don’t hear much. Extinguish. Put out. Slake.
Love is associated with fire in sacred and secular writing. The disciples who walked with the resurrected Jesus on the Road to Emmaus asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he (Jesus Christ) talked to us and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Burning with love?
“Fire!” is a warning to people to evacuate a building. It is also a command to soldiers to shoot. (The context usually makes the meaning clear.)
There is a joke that when Pentecostals shout, “Fire!” people rush into the church building rather than out of it.
A small spark may cause a wildfire. (James 3:5) Let it be a spark of love.