Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fire Power

[From a sermon on Daniel 3:13-30, for full sermon, see]

On a windy day in July 1994 on the appropriately named Storm Mountain in Colorado, smokejumpers parachuted in to fight a forest fire that was racing up the side of a small canyon. Smokejumpers are elite squads of firefighters who are the first responders to remote out-of-control wildfires. They go in at the most dangerous stage of defense against fires in isolated forest and grassland areas.

What had started on Storm Mountain as a typical forest fire was suddenly whipped by a strong wind into an explosion of heat and flame. Unlike almost everything else in nature, fire travels faster uphill than down. The smokejumpers stationed along a ridge were engulfed in a firestorm so unexpected and intense that escape was nearly impossible. Fourteen died on that ridge.

In a last effort at survival, many of them pulled their shiny, foil-like, fire-resistant emergency shelters over themselves and hugged the ground. Those flimsy barriers were no match for the fury of the Storm Mountain fire. [Homiletics, 1/8/1995]

Today, the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management employ over 280 smokejumpers who are strategically placed around the U.S. including Alaska. They are flown in to fire sites and dropped by parachute with fire fighting tools and enough food and water for 48 hours. They are required to be in top physical condition, and to "possess a high degree of emotional stability and mental alertness" (\fire\people\smokejumpers).

Last year (2006), they made nearly 2500 fire jumps (2497) with the most happening from their base in Missoula, Montana. The 63 smokejumpers assigned to Missoula made 310 fire jumps battling fires in the Northern Rockies and 191 other fires in the U.S. outside their region. On one mission, Missoula smokejumpers suppressed a fire that threatened 3500 acres near the Missouri River. It was a day that sported 100 degree temperatures apart from the fire.

According to the Canadian Forest Service, "An average surface fire on the forest floor can reach temperatures of 800 degrees Celsius. Under extreme conditions a fire can give off…
flame temperatures exceeding 1200 degrees Celsius" (\fire\faq] That’s 1408 degrees Fahrenheit on average with temperatures exceeding 2128 degrees Fahrenheit.

To further pinpoint this higher temperature, consider this:

850° produces bright red heat

913° melts bronze

1083° melts copper

1200° produces white heat

1530° melt iron.

This gives you an idea of the normal temperatures inside a smelting furnace. Now, imagine it seven times hotter!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Faking It

A Sunday School teacher was struggling to open a combination lock on a supply cabinet. She had been given the combination, but she couldn't quite remember it. Exasperated, she went to find her pastor to ask for help.

The pastor followed her to the Sunday School room, walked up to the supply cabinet, and started to turn the dial on the lock. After dialing in the first two numbers he paused and stared blankly into space for a moment.

Finally, he looked heavenward and his lips moved slightly. He then looked back at the lock, gave it one more turn and opened it.

The teacher was amazed. "I'm in awe of your faith, pastor," she said.

"It's really nothing," he replied. "The combination is on a piece of tape on the ceiling."