Northern California Wildfires at Life Legal’s Doorstep

IMG_1975 (1)
Life Legal staff wearing protective masks at work because of lingering smoke and ash from nearby wild fires

It was truly a terrifying sight as I stood outside Life Legal’s administrative offices in the Napa Valley in the middle of the night on October 8.

The winds were so powerful that we were actually afraid of being knocked over. Smoke filled the air, making it difficult to breathe. And the red glow of the Atlas Peak Fire was not so far away that I could use the phrase “in the distance.”

A relative who lives nearby notified us of the approach of the fire, which seems to have started at about 10 p.m. So, along with other Life Legal staff members and family, I drove to the scene to see what was happening.

The flames were visible — and moving quickly! The fire was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

It was impossible to go back home and go to sleep. As the night wore on, news came of other deadly fires in the vicinity.

Ultimately, my family and I had to make a judgment call — should we stay and hope for the best or should we flee? Because the fire was approaching rapidly and because several members of my family suffer from respiratory disorders, we decided that we had to leave our home. Before we departed, we went back to the Life Legal office to gather important documents and secure the office. We had no idea what might be waiting for us when we returned.

It turned out that our decision to evacuate was the correct one. The fires were so horrendous that they shut down power, phone service, and internet access across Napa Valley for several days. The office could not have functioned even if we had decided to remain in the area.

If the fire had advanced beyond one more road, Life Legal’s offices would have burned to the ground. As it was, the efforts of firefighters were able to save us, as well as many others. The threat to our homes—and to Life Legal’s offices—was real.

As a pro-lifer living at a dreadful time in human history, I often find myself reflecting on what’s wrong with society. Oddly enough, the Northern California fires of 2017 gave me a chance to reflect on what’s right with it.

Napa Fire 2

It was not only California’s own firefighters who acted heroically in response to the fires. They were joined by heroes from neighboring states and from as far away as Australia. Through their skill, hard work, and sheer bravery, these men and women faced down a disaster of apocalyptic proportions — and saved so many lives that only God could keep count.

Sometimes we think that things are so far gone that time-honored values like courage, perseverance, and selflessness are no where to be found. But those values still exist. I witnessed them shiningly exemplified in the firefighters who stood in the breach when a literal inferno rose up in fury all around the wine country.

My husband saw a crew of firefighters at McDonald’s this morning. They weren’t bragging or posturing or waiting to receive the accolades that they deserved. They were calmly eating their breakfast, drinking their coffee, and preparing to face off again against the fires, which still have not been fully contained.

I thank God for those firefighters — and for the prayers of Life Legal’s supporters, which in the mysterious economy of Heaven helped to bring those firefighters to our aid.

Our offices survived the fire and we are up and running again, somewhat hampered by continuing problems with our computer equipment, which was damaged in the fire.

Thank you again for your prayers during this time of crisis. Please keep our staff in your prayers as we turn our attention back to the life-saving work God has called us to do.

Mary Riley

Mary Riley

VP of Operations