THAT NIGHT I LEFT THE NEWSPAPER OFFICE WHERE I WORK and headed to the site of two dilapidated houses that stood waiting for our volunteer fire department to set them ablaze. I planned to write about a training exercise called a "controlled burn," where firefighters practice battling a fire. I got to the site just in time.  

One of the firefighters struck a match and lit some kindling. The first house, the smaller one, caught fire immediately. Flames licked at the night sky. The fire raged with such fury that the house was engulfed with in minutes.

The second house was so close to the first that it too caught fire, just like they'd planned. "Wait till all five rooms are going," one of the lead firefighters shouted, "then we move in."

Sheets of orange-blue flames shot through one room after another. But as the fire reached the threshold of the last room, it stopped its advance. For 15 minutes we watched, and that whole time, the fire did not enter that room.

"I don't know what's going on,: the lead firefighter said, "but we're gonna help this along a little." He took a can of gasoline and sloshed some through a window and onto the floor of the unburned room.


The fire continued to rage, but unbelievably that room remained untouched. After 15 more minutes, the firefighters decided to take a closer look. "Over there," one said, pointing to the wall in the room where a one picture hung. "Look!"

"Let's get it out," shouted another. Someone grabbed a long pole, stuck it into the room and snagged the picture off the wall. Slowly and carefully it was pulled out of the house.

I went to get a closer look. When I leaned over and touched the frame, it was completely cool.
Someone shouted. I whirled around to look at the house. A huge fireball exploded in the final room. Now the whole structure was ablaze.

I turned back to the picture. It was a painting of Christ.


---------Keith Bryson

    Keith Bryson is the editor of the Lamar Leader, a small paper in the rural community of Sulligent, Alabama (His Mysterious Ways, page 21). He was at the scene of the fire just to cover a routine volunteer fire department training exercise. He never could have anticipated what he witnessed. "I gave the picture to the family." Keith says. "They were really excited to have it back. It was completely unharmed by the flames. They're putting it somewhere safe. They're certainly not going to leave it behind again.

         Article and pictures (His Mysterious Ways. page 21) in the February 2006 "GUIDEPOSTS"