I stood on my front porch and watched the smoke billow high into the air. On occasion, flames could be seen amid the treetops. I took a deep breath and the smoke and burn filled my nostrils.  It was a bit unnerving. The fire was less than a quarter of a mile away and should the wind shift it would be on my doorstep.

I could hear sirens in the distance and knew help was on the way.  From my Facebook notes, Stephenville was responding as well as Dublin, Lingleville, Hico, and Morgan Mill as well as, other first responders from all around the area. My heart fluttered and I prayed silently to myself hoping no houses or animals were in danger and yet I knew better. 

Where there is fire, there is the hopelessness of knowing it can turn deadly and devastating in a heartbeat. I think about the fires in California and Colorado and Palo Pinto north of Stephenville and my heart skips a beat. Vast amounts of acreage charred, wildlife uprooted and cattle and horses running for their lives. Farmers and Ranchers watching their livelihoods going up in smoke as they wonder if the rains will ever come.

I wonder what people are thinking, or if they aren’t, when they toss out a cigarette or light a firecracker. I wonder if they realize the impact they hold on dozens of lives.

I stew about those whose lives have been changed by the flames for where there is fire there is destruction, devastation and ruin. Nothing is exempt from the heat, the smoke, the flames and the charred debris. Families are uprooted, animals displaced, property destroyed and all because there was fire with carelessness as the cause.

I’m thankful to all the surrounding communities who banned countywide use of fireworks and implemented a burn ban. Each day I watch the sky and listen to the weather reports hoping for some sign the drought can be relieved.

I watched from my porch until the midnight hour as flashing red and blue lights flickered on the horizon. Fire fighters continued to monitor the blaze. Even when it was out, and all that was left was the charred brittle grass and broken trees and brush the men and women stayed on to make sure there wasn’t another outbreak and to keep water on the hot spots. 

When I finally went in the house that night, I thanked God for every man and woman who spent all day and half the night in those fields, pastures and woods to keep structures and homes standing despite the flames.

Working diligently in the one hundred degree heat, each of the volunteers stood tall and gave all they had to keep the flames from spreading any more than it already had.

They stood, where there was fire, hot, tired, and sometimes alone, and yet they held their ground so my property and many of those around me would be safe. They were fighting flames, wind, heat, exhaustion and other elements over which they had no control and yet they stood their ground all day and long into the night to make sure the fire was out and contained. 

There are firefighters all over this country doing the same thing as we speak.

In a world gone mad, there are men and women who put their lives on the line every day so you and I can go about our business.  Be it law enforcement, first responders, fire fighters, medics, ambulance drivers, DPS or whatever we owe those guys and gals more than we can ever repay.  When they ask for something or even demand it from us we should show our respect and admiration and praise God they are doing their jobs.  They get enough hassle and flak as it is, without us choosing to be indifferent or angry or rebellious.

Where there is fire there is a need for us to respect all those people who give more than we can even understand. Be thankful. Be proud and be supportive of those who go far and beyond all that we can imagine to make this world a better place.             

Melinda Clements is an E-T community columnist. She can be reached at melinda_clements@centurylink.net.