Did Prayer Help Fight the Waldo Canyon Fire?

A thousand firefighters on the line, tens of thousands evacuated, and a week of hot and dry weather predictions. Who didn’t pray at a time like this?

Colorado Springs is a faithful community. Non-believers are somewhat of a minority in town. We are the home of over a hundred ministries – Compassion International, Focus on the Family, International Bible Society, The Navigators – just to name a few of the biggies.

When Waldo Canyon Fire kicked up less than two weeks ago, there’s no doubt Colorado Springs got considerable “prayer cover.” There were tens of thousands affected in the community, but there are millions of loved ones connected worldwide. Ministries touch people’s lives – that’s what they do – and prayers worldwide were sent to the aid of this Christian community.

This gave way to an article written by one resident and notable atheist, Barry Fagin. His article, Prayer Warriors Accomplish Little When Fighting Fires, threw cold water on the idea that prayer had anything to do with the efforts to put out the Waldo Canyon Fire. If we do anything, the article argues, we should think “kind and extremely rational thoughts” toward firefighters, technology, and other thoughtful people. Not “prayer warriors.”

Prayer vs. “kind and extremely rational thoughts.” I’m not sure what Fagin did to help the firefighting efforts, but he sure thought it necessary to use the fire’s tragedy to spread his worldview into this great community. In a followup article, he reinforced his thesis:

The evidence says that science and reason are more effective in keeping firefighters safe, in fighting fire, in saving lives, and in bringing rain than any prayers a “prayer warrior” might offer.

He seems pretty certain, but I’m not sure how anyone can ever KNOW if prayer works or doesn’t work. You can claim to feel it, hypothesize, point to scriptures, appeal to “kind and extremely rational thoughts,” whatever – but time passes. Either prayer was made or it wasn’t. The facts are what they are. Facts are what you have to look at – atheists and Christians alike – for validation of Fagin’s appeal to evidence.

So let’s use the Waldo Canyon Fire’s results, shall we? These facts size up whether prayer had anything to do with the success of stomping out the Waldo Canyon Fire.

1. Waldo Canyon Fire: Colorado’s most destructive fire in history

In one fatal swoop of an afternoon of 65 mph winds, 346 homes were destroyed. Nine days ago the fire lines broke and the winds swept through neighborhoods of Colorado Springs. The city was on fire and people fled. Devastation!

A total of 32,000 people were evacuated. Thirty-two thousand. A thousand firefighters were on the scene. The weather forecast was not cooperating, either. All week predicted the same: 100 degrees and 10% chance of rain. We who live on the range of the Rocky Mountains know what that means: a sprinkle with a ton of lightning. Drought conditions left the landscape dry and the forests with piles of kindling wood ready to light up.

And I remember all too well the Hayman Fire of 2002. Before this year, it was Colorado’s most destructive fire, just eight miles from my home. It was out of control for the better part of the summer. We were total victims to the weather. The fuel of these dark mountain forests are incredible, and when ablaze you can’t just put them out with a bunch of fire extinguishers. The fire goes where the fire wants to go. Every firefighter knows this.

To say the least, the news we were dealt with after the city caught on fire was grim. We braced ourselves for the worst. Injuries, accidents, loss of property, loss of life. This community prayed and prayed hard. We did not take this call to God lightly.

2. The results of the Waldo Canyon Fire response team

Results. Skeptics want results, not warm-fuzzy thinking. I can agree with that! The last thing anyone in the path of this fire wants is a bunch of hot air. We have to consider the results of the devastation that befell our community.

For starters, consider the firefighters. There were nearly 1,000 of them at the time the fire rolled into Colorado Springs neighborhoods. Firefighters want to hold the line just as much as homeowners, and retreat orders – with hundreds of homes in the way – were probably difficult to follow. I thank God there was not one casualty on that horrifying Tuesday afternoon. Not one. And a thousand firefighters in 100 degree weather, you’d expect someone to twist an ankle or suffer from exhaustion. Number of injuries: 0.

Next, consider the evacuees. Out of the 32,000 evacuated, 2 people died in the fire. Two. I don’t want to make light of that loss, but that’s .006% casualties. The communities had minutes to flee. The success of the evacuation is unheard of, certainly beyond “kind and extremely rational thought.” Again, I thank God for his incredible shepherding of the tens of thousands of residents out of harm’s way.

But weather. What to do with this weather? The forecast was not going to get any better than Tuesday: 100 degrees, slight chance of rain, likely wind and lightning. I dreaded the results of my Weather.com search. I looked at the map and did the math: another doubling of the fire’s size, and we’d have mayhem. For my family, the fire would have been in our front yard. I prayed and packed (we were on pre-evac orders), but I’d bet that even the faithless prayed, at least for a change in the weather forecast.

Guess what happened? Wednesday came and unexpected humidity kept the fire from duplicating its growth. The following day rain dumped directly on Waldo. Since then there has been moisture every single day. And the day before the 4th of July, God dumped rain – little lightning, little wind, just a steady heavy rain – right on the fire. A 1/2 inch of rain, equivalent to 250 million gallons of water.

Come on, skeptics. Can’t you thank God for the rain?

3. Was it prayer, or “kind and extremely rational thought”?

As time passed, results were in the favor of this prayerful community. I suppose skeptics can call it luck, perhaps the results of tens of thousands “kind and extremely rational thoughts.” In the face of the results, that’s a tough argument to believe.

To me, it’s validation that we have a God that is totally awesome. I believe God enjoyed knocking down this fire, he joined us in the fight, and he smiled on Colorado Springs – his friends and family – when the fight was largely over. There is even “proof” of this. A double rainbow filled the sky after Tuesday’s rain, and Twitter and Facebook lit up with pictures of this magical sign from heaven. By the 4th of July, the fire was announced 100% contained in Colorado Springs, 90% contained in all its 18,000 acres. The anticipated July 16 containment date has been moved up to July 6th. That’s glorious news.

But who to thank? I don’t want to discount kindness and rationality. Skeptics are right in this: investment in technology and first-responder action should be top of our list on things for which to be thankful. I’m incredibly impressed with the leadership team of our mayor, sheriff, our fire chief and firefighters, the forestry service, relief volunteers, and thousands of others – including the supportive and understanding community who were recipients of their leadership. Impressive, coordinated, awesome – I cannot be more thankful for them.

But, skeptics, think twice before belittling those who prayed fervently for our community. The results are in, and it’s difficult to believe that prayer had nothing to do with them. Besides, such reminders of your godless worldview – and using this tragedy to remind everyone of it – isn’t kind. It’s cruel. And it’s not rational either.

About Chris Jeub

Chris is the father of 16 children, busily running the family businesses and learning the depths of love along the way.

  • InspriationalClassroom

    This fire covered 18,000 acres, destroyed 346 homes (and damaged many others) and claimed the life of 2 homeowners.  The Hayman fire covered nearly 10x the acreage.  In perspective, had the Waldo Canyon fire reached 140,000 acres (spreading on the North & East track that it was headed), it could have burned a swath 10 miles wide and 20 miles long; this would have effectively destroyed Colorado Springs from the mountains, east to Powers and from Garden of the Gods road, north to County Line road.  Roughly 200,000 people live in this path and El Paso county as we know it would have been destroyed.  There is no doubt in my mind that prayer played a HUGE part in containing the fire and reducing it to where it is today.

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

      Yeah, we were looking at the same maps. The news on Tuesday was devastating, but another doubling of the fire’s size would have been absolutely horrifying.

      • InspriationalClassroom

        The potential devastation would have been, in the words of Vizzini – INCONCEIVABLE!

  • Betsy Clark

    Great post. We followed this story closely from NC, as we have friends at Manitou’s Summit Ministries, and love the others out their as well. To me, God showed great mercy in protecting and preserving so many lives in the path of the fire. Still praying for recovery, restoration, and rebuilding. – Betsy Clark

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

      Thanks for the prayers, Betsy. You are an example of how friends of the people here were huge helps by joining us in our desperate prayers.

  • Guest

    It’s a shame prayer didn’t help the many Christian homes that burnt to the ground. 

    Honestly, I have more respect for those who went out to fight the fires, than those who sat in the safety of their home and prayed.

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

      But see, that’s a straw man — the same straw man that Fagin was making. Your idea is that people STOPPED fighting the fire to PRAY. That’s just weird thinking, Guest. Like I said, I “packed and prayed,” and I appreciated the prayers of my friends who knew my home was in the line of fire. 

      • Guest

        No, I just have respect for those courageous enough to fight wildfires.

        • InspirationalClassroom

          Interesting that you would use the word “courageous” and hide under the name of “Guest”.

          • Guest

            Next time I will hide under the name “Inspirational Classroom”.  

            The point is, it is harder to fight a wildfire than it is to sit in a comfy chair and pray. I respect that, because it is courageous.

            • InspirationalClassroom

              Rick Stevens.  Now do you care to reveal?

        • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

          Check this out: http://www.gazette.com/articles/appreciation-141320-firefighters-crowds.html

  • Guest

    You’d think God wouldn’t even send a fire to such a Christian community. Or send tornados through the bible belt in the south. It seems that the Christian communites in the US are the hardest hit. Nothing bad has happened to San Fran or New York.

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

      The cause has yet to be determined. They are suspecting arson. I think only a fool would suspect God.

      • Guest

        Certainly God sent the tornados and hurricanes that have plagued the Bible belt. And God sent the last Colorado fire. 

        • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

          Your image of God is twisted and wrong. It’s interesting, though. Thanks for posting your thoughts.

        • InspirationalClassroom

          How can you be “certain”?  Have you received some sort of special revelation that no one else has?  There’s a HUGE difference between God allowing something to happen and God sending devastation.  We live in a fallen world where bad things happen.  Bad things do not prove that God is malicious.  Bad things prove that without God, there is no hope for good things to ever happen. 

          • Guest

            OK, God allowed these fires to burn Christian homes. God allowed tornadoes to devastate Christian families. 

    • Djk1233

      Nothing nothing is happened to San Francisco? Hmm,I recall concrete crashing down on cars nothing is happened to New York and I recall concrete crashing down on people and people jumping out of buildings. Both natural and man-made disasters befall us all. It is the aftermath that matters what do we do about it? One who is intimately involved in such disasters will invarabily drop to there knees. One who claims otherwise is a liar. The issue isn’t what disaster has a grip on you, rather WHO has a grip on you? Recognize the results of the disaster for what they are and choose wisely.

  • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

    Here’s an awesome story of a firefighter returning the appreciation from a thankful crowd. Inspiring. And the note he left for those cheering him on: 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tiara-Smith/100000386126152 Tiara Smith

    I realized one of my callings from God several years ago was Prayer Warrior,and I can tell you firsthand..it DOES help! God’s will be done,I always pray in His will.

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