Paradise on Fire

Mangan, Camp Fire Butte Co.
Camp Fire Butte Company, Facebook Photo

(Mike and Deon Mangan are part of the team that facilitated my visits to the Sacramento area – and are great friends of this site. Several times, they acted as my primary drivers in the area. Mike looks almost exactly like my high school band director. The Mangans were among the families evacuated from the fires that swept through central California early last month. Both work in Paradise, which was hardest hit by the fires and live only a few miles away. Though this story is long, it is a gripping first-person account, from not knowing anything was amiss in the morning through suddenly crawling through a raging inferno. I could not put it down. It is the story of one of our own who lived through what all of us were watching on the news last month.-CJ)

By Deon Mangan

My Story of the Fire on Thursday, November 8, 2018

Today is 3 weeks since the fire.  There was a scheduled meeting in Chico to update community members about possible access to parts of Paradise, and perhaps Magalia through Paradise.  Unfortunately, it was cancelled due to flash flood warnings.  Parts of Hwy 99 were closed in both directions due to flooding for a time tonight due to intense rain.  There were mudslides on Honey Run also.

We are truly blessed.  This has been a challenging time, one where we see the best in people, and infrequently less than the best in ourselves and others.

So, let me tell you about our morning on Thursday, Nov 8th.  My husband, Mike, and I were up and getting ready for work.  Our home is located in upper Magalia at about the 2,800-foot level.  We live about 10 miles from our jobs in different parts of Paradise.  Magalia is a small, unincorporated community up the hill from the Town of Paradise. We both work in Paradise, and we attend daily Mass, so we were getting ready to leave for St. Thomas More Catholic Church and then off to our jobs in separate cars, due to our different schedules and responsibilities.

At approximately 7:45 am I received a telephone call from the Head Chef / Director of Outreach at St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church, where I am Parish Administrator and Office Manger, about our planned free hot meal for the day.  (St. Nicks’ feeds 200-250 people twice per week.)  She told me there was a fire with thick smoke in Paradise, and she thought there might be an evacuation.  (A call like this has never happened before in my almost 7 years on the job there.)  She thought it might be best to provide sandwiches on the patio for those in need, but not obligate our volunteers in an evacuation situation.  I thought she had a good idea, and suggested texting the pastor with a quick 5 minutes to respond before putting the plan into action.

That phone call made a tremendous difference to my husband and me.  We were given an extra 15 minutes to pack.  Instead of just having a back pack with one change of clothes in a “go bag” in the trunks of our cars, we had time to pack a couple of small suitcases each.  (One suggestion, if you have time to pack before an evacuation, bring your dirty clothes bag with you.  I ended up with a whole bag of shirts and only 2 pairs of pants.  In my rush, I just wasn’t thinking clearly about the other clothes available only a wash away.)  While packing I started calling family who also live in Magalia.  One sister was already at a school evacuating her grandson, who had been dropped off earlier in the morning.  I called my other sister who lives with and takes care of my elderly mother, who has COPD, and is on oxygen 24 hours per day.  I wanted to make sure they knew of the possible evacuation, so they could begin planning.

At this point, Mike and I did not expect to be in an emergency situation.  We were still both rushing to get our packing done for a possible evacuation and get out in our separate cars to daily Mass.  If we had really expected an emergency, we would have traveled together.  This choice would lead us to follow an incredible “twisty-turny” plan of God to touch the lives of others later.

I left home about 8:15 am heading down the hill from Magalia toward Paradise.   We have lived in Magalia for over 25 years.  When we first moved there, the trees were tall.  Now they’ve grown up so much more, that to see a long distance, I needed to be at the end of my block.  When I first saw the plume of smoky clouds, it reminded me of a movie, Dante’s Peak, or video I’ve seen of volcanoes exploding.  The cloud was very vertical, not horizontal at this stage.  Also, the intense winds were causing it to roil, like rapidly boiling water.  I truly have never seen anything like it in person.  It was scary and ominous.

I proceeded down Skyway and, as I crossed the dam, used my cell phone to take pictures of Sawmill Peak, the largest in our area.  I could see that the fire and smoke were coming around the peak on the right side, but it still looked a distance away.

Mangan, smoke from sawmill peak

From Deon’s Cell Phone on Dam, 8:15-8:30 am, Smoke and Fire at Sawmill Peak

Then as I proceeded into the narrow two-lane part of Skyway, the winding part of the road between Magalia and Paradise, I could see between the trees into the fields, and the fire was closer and closer.  Finally, as I got near Paradise, I could see the fire was immediately behind the trees at the edge of the road.  This was approximately 8:30 am.  There were no fire or police at this part of Skyway yet, but I knew that it would be only a matter of minutes.  I called both of my sisters in Magalia and told them that the fire was at the edge of the road near Old Magalia, and the only way out for Magalia residents would be up Skyway through Stirling City and Butte Meadows.  (FYI-I used my cell phone during this event while driving.  I do not normally do this, nor do I recommend it, but in these extraordinary circumstances, I did.)

(A note: There was a big fire in Paradise back in 2008.  Many homes in lower Paradise in the area of Neal Rd. were lost, and the 4 different roads out of Paradise all became blocked at one point.  There was only one road out of Magalia, up the hill, requiring gravel and dirt road driving for part of the trip.  After the fire in 2008, the road that had been proposed and then every year dropped from the budget for over 35 years by the State Legislature, was finally completed.  On 4th of July weekend, 2017, Mike and I took a drive on this new road.  We wanted to make sure that in the event of an emergency, we could really get out without a 4-wheel drive car.  We found it to be a really nice drive above Inskip, and only took 45 minutes to get from our home to the Bambi Inn – a local landmark – in Butte Meadows.)

So, I was now in Paradise. I knew with the fire behind me, I would be going down the hill to Chico through the town.  Mike was about five minutes behind me in his car coming from Magalia.  As I approached the intersection of Clark Rd and Skyway the traffic was moving pretty well.  I was talking to my sister about how things were going, and she was remarking about the idiots who were clogging the gas stations and were out of gas.  I admitted that I would soon be one of those idiots.  I had been working late hours all week, and hadn’t felt like doing the “one more stop” on the way home.  I knew that I would never make it out without gas.  The station at Clark and Skyway was packed.  As I proceeded through the intersection, I noticed what looked like someone burning leaves in a field across the street, near the Eagles Hall where they have Bingo.  I was thinking how strange it was to be burning leaves in the intense wind.  At that point, someone ran across Skyway with a fire extinguisher to put out the fire.  Of course, it wasn’t a planned burn, it was another outbreak of the fire.

The night before the fire, as I was going to bed, I heard how strong the winds were.  I remarked to Mike about it then, and the next morning, before hearing anything about the fire, I remarked how strong the winds were again.  We had been getting warnings from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) all week by email, telephone call, and text, about them turning off the power in the event of high winds.  I remember wondering as I was getting ready that morning how much stronger the winds would need to be for them to turn off the power.

We now know that the fire stated in Pulga, across Butte County around 6:30 am.  Here we were in Paradise at 8:30+ and there were fires bursting out, setting trees on fire.  I heard that at one point the fire was moving at 80 football fields a minute.  The strong winds kept driving the embers of the fire further and further away.  I saw a picture of the charred remains of a sheet of paper that drifted to the ground down in Chico.  This just shows how far and easily the fire was being spread by the wind.

I went a little further down Skyway (the main road from Magalia, through Paradise, down to the valley floor in Chico). I came to another intersection at Wagstaff and Skyway with two more gas stations.  The one on my left was packed again, with lines out to the street, but the one on my right had only one car at each of 4 pumps, so I slipped in behind one car, and moved right up and got my gas next, and then back out on the road.  This was probably about 8:40 am.  I knew I was too late for daily Mass at this point, because it was due to start at 8:30.  It then took me about 20 minutes to go a fraction of a mile from Wagstaff to Bille, because now we were in bumper to bumper traffic with everyone trying to get down the hill.

I now thought I would be smarter than all the other drivers on Skyway.  I would go down a short distance to a parallel road to Skyway, called Oliver, and I would bypass all the traffic.  Another reason for going down to Oliver is that I was now headed to my job at the St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church as Parish Administrator.  I thought I would go in very quickly, check all the doors, make sure everyone was out, and then leave.  However, my choice to go down to Oliver was a BIG MISTAKE.  In hindsight, I realize that all the small roads were feeding into Oliver, and then the whole road needed to end up back on Skyway further down, but no one was letting this large group of cars back in.  This decision would be very important to me and to others caught in the fire.

Mike was five minutes behind me. When he got into Paradise at Clark and Skyway, it was becoming controlled chaos.  The small leaf fire that I passed a few minutes earlier had now erupted into several trees blazing.  The fire was threatening all the cars going down Skyway at this point, so the backup of traffic was now headed down Clark Rd.

Mike had a choice to make; get into the long line of traffic stuck at Clark or push through the fire on Skyway.  At that point a scene from a movie we like jumped into his mind (our family are big movie buffs), Frequency, with Jim Caviezel.  This is an interesting story with time travel, mystery whodunnit, and baseball, partially set in New York City during the 1969 World Series.  In the story the son as an adult tells his father in the past that he made the wrong decision as a fireman in a key fire.  He said you need to go against your instincts and go the other way to save your life.  Mike took this as a sign and gunned the accelerator and went down Skyway.  As he passed the conflagration on his right, other cars started following him too.  In a few minutes he caught up with more cars, but he saw that some were going through a small auto repair shop and then were disappearing down the road.  When he got closer, he realized they were cutting the corner, and then going down Rocky Lane which connects with Wagstaff, Clark, and his destination on Elliott of St. Thomas More Catholic Church.

As he approached the intersection at Clark and Wagstaff he noticed that everyone there, pedestrians and drivers in cars alike were looking up at this huge tree near the shopping center.  It looked like it was covered with Christmas lights, but that didn’t make sense in early November.  All at once, the tree exploded in fire.  They weren’t Christmas lights but small flames all over the tree.  So, Paradise was burning in multiple places from the spot fires being spread by the embers and intense winds.  As soon as the people on the street and in their cars saw this, there was a collective deep breath, and then everyone jumped into action at the same time.  Mike accelerated around the corner and was out ahead of all the cars now headed down Clark Road.

Back on Oliver over the next three hours, I had lots of time between moving up a car length or so, to make more phone calls and send text messages.  At this point I contacted my brother who lives in Central California and my daughter who lives in LA and a niece in the Bay Area.  I sent them the pictures of Sawmill Peak that I took while crossing the dam, and asked them to pray for all of us.

My family has been living on the Ridge (Paradise, Magalia, and above) since 1973.  At the time of the fire there were 25-30 of us living in homes and apartments, most in Magalia, but some in Paradise.  This is a big family to pray for getting everyone out safely.

During this time on Oliver, I was also in communication with my boss at St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church, a female rector.  She was evacuating with her three teenage children down Neal Road.  We were trying to account for the different parishioners and my Office Angels (volunteers who staff the parish office during the week).  These are retired 70, 80, and 90-year-olds, who do a wonderful job helping the 200-250 people from the community who come for our free meals twice per week.  (Not important to my story, but I’m very proud of them, recently they have been posting on Social Media for the Church on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.  I love it when they can tell their children that they have been re-tweeted.)

As the time is slowly passing, I thought several times about whether I should backtrack and go back to Bille and Skyway.  My concern was how much more delayed I might be, and if I could even get all the way back from where I had progressed to.

At about 11:00, I had moved about 2 miles down Oliver.  It was getting darker and more smoky as time went on.  The Pastor and I had one more conversation about various parishioners and Office Angels.  She mentioned one woman who was waiting for the Sheriff’s Department to come pick her up, (let’s call her Pam -I don’t want to use anyone’s name without their permission.  I will tell the story honestly, but I will leave out or change the names of everyone except Mike and me.)  I could see with the excruciatingly slow progress on the roads, that it was extremely unlikely that anyone would have been able to get to her house.  Pam lived close to the church, off Oliver.  I told the Pastor I would call Pam.  I told Pam that I was near her home, and I would be happy to have her come with me.  There was room in the car for her and her bags, and I would love the company.  Pam will turn 94 in December.  She suffers from a vision problem and is legally blind and unable to see at night.  She had been driving up until recently but would not have been able to drive herself out from her home in the growing darkness of the smoke.

I had been to Pam’s house in the past, but not often, and always coming from the opposite direction.  I couldn’t remember the street name that she lived on.  So, I asked her, “Pam, what’s the name of your street?”  She told me, and there, not 20 feet from me was her street sign.  I turned down the street, went to her house and picked her up.  Despite having been to her home many times, the wind had blown leaves and pine needles across the roads and driveways.  I remembered the area, but still missed the turn for her driveway.  So I had to turn around. Then the driveway splits three more times.  I think it is highly unlikely that anyone would have been able to get to her street in the traffic, or once there find her home in the growing darkness.

So, we are back on Oliver a little after 11 am.  I have been in communication with Mike on and off throughout the morning by text and a couple of short conversations.  (His cellphone battery was not holding a charge, so he didn’t want to use up the battery with talking.)  One of the things that gave me hope was when Mike was telling me about the quiet heroics of the Plant Manager at St. Thomas More Catholic Church.  This hard-working man was making sure that the Charter School (former Catholic School) was evacuated.  Then as frantic parents arrived for their children, he let them know where to pick up the children in Chico.  This man was going around the Church building and offices, getting our Sacrament Ledgers, turning off the gas, helping the Pastor gather his Vestments and leaving.  Taking care of everyone and everything else, before himself.  This manager’s wife was waiting at the Church for him, and Mike was waiting there for me too.  The two of them had a cup of tea together and looked for ways to help out at the parish before evacuating.

Mangan, flight from fire

From Deon’s Cell Phone 11:08 am, tail lights and darkening sky in Paradise on Oliver Rd.

Pam and I progressed up Oliver at a terribly slow pace.  I remember checking my phone using GPS to see how close we were to the St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church.  At one point we were 0.6 miles, then 0.4, getting closer.  At one point the two-lane road became two lanes both going in the same direction toward Skyway.  We were around the intersection with Valley View, a large section of beautiful custom-built homes in Paradise.  There was an older man in the intersection directing traffic.  He was about 60 or 70 years old and was holding a handkerchief over his mouth because the smoke was getting so thick.  I rolled down the window of my car and asked him if he was an emergency worker with the Town of Paradise.  He said, “No, I’m just a volunteer. … Now roll up that window and get something over that elderly woman’s mouth and nose to keep the smoke out.”  Well, there was no arguing with that.

At this point we went down into a ravine with a bank about 20 feet high on the left.  I was starting to see an orange glow in the sky over the bank.  It was at this point that I had a temptation to fear and panic.  I felt trapped.  The car wasn’t moving, it was growing increasingly dark, and if fire swept over that bank, I would not have been able to get Pam, who uses a cane to walk, out of the path of the fire.  All I could imagine doing was covering her with my arms and body and know that we would both die there.  One of the graces that helped me resist this temptation was the other quiet heroes, going about their business in the unfolding emergency – the Plant Manager at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, the volunteer directing traffic in the smoke, and my husband patiently waiting for me a mile away.  Their faithfulness gave me courage.  I thought that if I go out, I want to be like them.  It gave me hope.  I was also heartened by the thought that if I were to die, I had the great grace of being in a “state of grace”.  I have no illusions that I would be going straight to Heaven.  I’m sure there would be time in Purgatory, but the grace that comes from daily Eucharist and the Rosary, monthly Confession, and participating in my faith was also very reassuring.  I realized that if this was the day that God was taking me home, then I was ready, and I wanted to go out like his other quiet heroes.

Next, I noticed the volunteer directing traffic walking up toward Skyway.  We had been stopped for what seemed like a very long time with no forward progress.  I’m not sure, but I think he went up to the corner and started having the drivers on Skyway let the cars on Oliver in, one at a time.  We started slowly inching forward.  Now we were finally turning the corner on Oliver, I could see in the distance and smoke the traffic light at Skyway.  Traffic was moving at a snail’s pace, but we were making progress.  I had hoped to pull into the St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church parking lot, but as we got close, it was almost noon.  The power was out.  It seemed like the cell towers were down, no texts or emails were getting through from Mike.  I was concerned for delaying any longer.  So, as I approached the Church on the left and Jack-in-the-Box on the right, I said a holy prayer of protection for St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church.  This was one of those times when the Holy Spirit inspires you, prays through you, and it was an intense prayer of holy protection for the Church, buildings, grounds, and asking the holy angels and saints to put a bubble of protection over the property.

Mangan, Jack in the Box destroyed

As I approached the corner of Skyway, I sent one more text to Mike, telling him that I was close, and asking him to leave for Chico.  Because the cell towers seemed to be down, I hadn’t heard back from him.  I told Pam that if we got to Skyway and hadn’t heard from Mike, we would have to go to St. Thomas More and look for him.

In the meantime, Mike was still at St. Thomas More waiting for me.  The Plant Manager from STM had finished all he could do at the parish, and he and his wife were ready to go.  They did not want to leave Mike alone; however, he assured them he would be okay, and he was going to wait for me.  His plan was to wait as long as he could, and if he felt threatened in any way, he would go into the church and pray at the foot of the altar before the Blessed Sacrament, which was still in residence, and wait there.  In the meantime, he turned his car facing downhill, watching for me to arrive from the direction of Oliver and then Skyway.  Since I had sent Mike a text encouraging him to go, he prayed a fervent prayer, asking for guidance from God about whether he should stay or go.  “Lord, if you want me to go, please give me a very clear sign.”  He prayed this because he really didn’t want to leave without me.

Within five minutes a Paradise Policeman drove up and asked Mike if he was okay, and if there was anything wrong with the car.  Mike told the officer that he was waiting for me, and that I was stuck on Oliver.  The officer told Mike that he had just driven by Oliver and that the fire was not there.  He said that the cars were coming off Oliver a few at a time, and that I would be out of there soon.  When I got off Oliver, I would be sent down Skyway to Chico.  He said, “You need to leave right now.”  He also said that the cell towers were not down, just overloaded with so many messages.  He said that eventually the messages would get through to your wife.  So, Mike, following the rule of obedience to legitimate authority (and the clear sign from God which came promptly within five minutes of his prayer for direction), sent me one last text message and went down to join the bumper to bumper throngs heading to Chico.

Pam and I would need to travel about a half a block out of our way from Skyway, but there was a lot of traffic and a checkpoint in between.  Skyway was now all traveling down the hill.  The two lanes in each direction were now four lanes going down, and the extra center turn lane made it five lanes going down the hill.  With all the power out and the smoke so dark, the only thing visible were the red tail lights of the cars all heading down the hill.  This was around Noon, and I remember looking up to no sun, and then the wind would blow the smoke for a moment, and you would see a red glowing ball,  then the smoke would cover it again.  The moment felt at one time surreal, while also Scriptural and Apocalyptic.

We slowly made our way across the five lanes of traffic from the right side to the left.  As I approached the intersection of Elliott, I could see a checkpoint.  At each intersection there were emergency workers.  Some were police officers, some Town of Paradise, and others, volunteers.  About half had something over their mouths.  They were out there in the smoke, traffic, and approaching fire, and their sole focus was on helping us and getting us to safety.  These quiet heroes saved many that day.

As I got close to the intersection, I was pretty sure that they would not let me go up the half black to STM to check for Mike.  So, I slipped into the Veteran’s Hall parking lot, and slipped out on Elliott Road.  The intersection and checkpoint were a little distance away, and they were focused elsewhere, so I went quickly up the hill to St. Thomas More.  I was completely relieved when I saw there was no dark blue Toyota in the lower Church parking lot, so Mike was gone.  Just to be extra sure, I went up to the back-school parking lot, and no one was there either.  I had now been in the car for about four hours and knew there was bumper to bumper traffic down to Chico. Not knowing how much longer it would take, I made a quick pit stop.  I had a key, since I work at STM, and let myself into the restroom.  As I got out of the car and back in, I heard a loud booming sound coming every few seconds from the direction of Clark Road.  It was only the next day that I realized it was probably the sound of propane tanks exploding.  Mike told me later that he and the Plant Manager and his wife heard the explosions also, and that was one of the reasons they were reluctant to leave him.

Mike had now reached the worst of the fire.  The four lanes of Skyway going down the hill to Chico were suddenly forced into two lanes by a huge tree that had fallen onto the power lines and was bursting into fire.  He was impressed that the emergency workers were still out directing traffic and helping drivers in spite of fire breaking out around them. They were helping the four lanes of frantic drivers to merge into two lanes.  The fire was so close to the edge of the road on both sides that the pickup truck ahead of him was kicking up embers and sparks into the right lane.  This was making it so that Mike had to move into the center of the two lanes, straddling the line, so that it was now just one lane of traffic going downhill.  And he could see the traffic behind him doing the same, which turned out to be a good thing.  This was because the flames from the fire on both sides was like a wall of flame.  The heat was so intense that he could feel heat from the driver side.  But he could feel waves of heat coming from the passenger side, even with the window rolled up.  Mike looked to make sure that the glass hadn’t melted or the windows rolled down in the fire letting the heat in.  The window was up, it was just that hot driving through the fire on both sides.  He felt it was like the movie, The Ten Commandments, where Moses goes through the Red Sea with the walls of water on either side.  As he looked to the sides, he could see homes on both sides, fully engulfed in flames.  Sadly, these were the homes of friends we know who were losing their lifetime of memories and belongings.

Mangan, house aflame

https://patch.com/california/chico/camp-fire-70-000-acres-burned-new-evacuations-butte-county

In spite of this dire situation, Mike was feeling strangely calm, because he was praying the Rosary using a CD we have from the Mary Foundation. His thoughts and prayers were only for me.  Mike was praying for my safety, knowing that I was somewhere behind him, and trusting in Our Lord and Our Lady to get me out to safety too.

Back at STM, I was done quickly in the bathroom and got back in the car with Pam.  We headed down Elliott and then Almond to cut off as much of the traffic as we could.  I cut in one block before Pearson, which I could see was also backed up.  We now joined the 4 lanes of traffic proceeding down Skyway.  When we approached the curve at Neal Rd and Schmale with Skyway a new arm of the fire came into view.  It was surrounding the large two-story Health Clinic at the edge of town.  I was impressed because it seemed to be surrounding one end in a semi-circle, but the clinic was not “yet” burning.  It appeared that it would go at any time.  We continued slowly down Skyway.

(This last week, I learned that a friend of a friend from the St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church had walked around this health clinic and blessed not only the building but the grounds with blessed water and oil a month before the fire.  The Health Clinic survived the fire.)

Now Pam and I were in the thick of the fire.  The two lanes normally heading down Skyway from Paradise to Chico had been blocked from a large fallen tree and power lines, so the emergency response four lanes were now down to two.  As we went down Skyway, we could see fire on both sides of us.  Everything was on fire.  Buildings, homes, trees.  You could see the framing of the homes burning after the outside was gone.  I remember driving under the “Welcome to Paradise” sign burning.  At this point I was in the left lane, driving at about 40-45 mph, and while I thought it would make a great picture, I didn’t take the risk of taking a picture over my shoulder with my phone.  I thought I would leave it for someone else.  It seemed to tell the story.  Paradise was “on fire”.

Mangan, Paradise on fire

From Facebook: Brandon Johnson

At one point, Pam said she could feel the heat coming in through the closed window as we drove through the fire on both sides of us.  I thought to myself, if they are having us drive through this inferno, how much worse must it be behind us, what danger must Paradise be in to have us go this way.  As we got down Skyway near the golf course, there was a burned-out truck or van in the center of the median.  All that was left of it was the metal shell smoldering.   Later I heard from a friend who made it to Chico that their lug nuts had melted onto the rims.  Other cars made it to Chico with their plastic molding melted and then cooled like dripping wax from a candle.  I saw one of these in a post on Facebook.

At the bottom of the Skyway my cellphone started chiming with the arrival of all of the messages from the last hour.  There were a total of 23, and most of them were from Mike!  I immediately called him, and we agreed to meet at a shopping center close-by.

Pam and I arrived in Chico – FINALLY – at 1:00 pm.  It had taken me just less than 5 hours to drive what would have been a 35-40-minute drive from our home in Magalia to a shopping center parking lot in Chico.  Mike was waiting for me there.  We hugged each other like never before.  Holding on for minutes before we could let go.  It was SO WONDERFUL to be together.

This is the most important message for me.  As sad as the loss of life is, the count is now up to 88.  However, approximately 50,000 people made it off the Ridge on Thursday, November 8th.  Paradise is about 25,000-27,000 people.  But up above Paradise, there are a whole series of small communities (Paradise Pines, Magalia, De Sabla, Lovelock, Stirling City, Inskip) whose population totals about 25,000 people also.

My entire extended family of 25-30 made it all off the hill safely.  About half lost their homes or apartments.  However, half of our homes survived.  Mine, my sister’s, and my mother’s all survived.  Three nieces also had their homes make it.  There is an entire section of Magalia that is still there with power on and water.   My sister who is back there living now, said it is like an oasis in a sea of destruction.  When she returned to her home before Thanksgiving, she said it was as if she never left.  No smell of smoke or sign of anything wrong.  She estimates that 1/3 of Magalia survived.  The small business section of Magalia made it too.

Mangan, house
A Survivor

In Paradise, the Holiday Market Shopping Center made it through, as did the Save Mart / Kmart, but the Safeway did not.

The St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church made it through unscathed.  The apartments and homes on the left are all gone.  On the right side of the property, the shrubs burned, but the property, Church, buildings, are all okay.  The flower garden in front of the church is still in bloom.  Across the street the Jack-in-the-Box, which we visited frequently, burned.

St. Thomas More Catholic Church survived also.  The former Catholic School, now Charter, on the property also survived.  The Parish Hall, old rectory turned meeting rooms and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Atrium, and new rectory all burned down.  The Parish Hall is 12 feet from the back-conference room/office in the Church.  My desk as Coordinator of Religious Education for the parish sits at the window of the conference room there.  The window is double-paned.  One pane of the window broke in the heat from the fire.  The bush outside the window also burned, and the people who have been there since the fire say they found a hose there, so someone was protecting the church by dousing the flames on the bush.  If the second pane of glass had broken, the fire would have gotten inside the church office, and then taken the whole church.

Mangan, St. Thomas More survived

St. Thomas More Church survived.  Taken a couple of days after the fire.

Mangan, St. Thomas More Old Rectory

St. Thomas More old Rectory (More House) burned, as did the Parish Hall and new Rectory. School survived in the background.

Aftermath

We had friends in Chico offer to have us stay with them, but after the harrowing day, we decided to get further away and went down near Modesto to stay with my brother.  On the way out of town, parts of Chico and Durham were now being evacuated.  Both of my friends who had offered to have us stay with them were now under evacuation orders.

My sisters, who had been evacuated up the hill from Magalia, went to Stirling City.  At about 10:30 that night they were evacuated from Stirling City.  My mother and one sister went one way to Chico to a shelter at that point.  My other sister went up to Butte Meadows, which was then evacuated around 3:30 am.  So, she was evacuated three times in one day.  She eventually ended up in Chico also.

The next day I was in a restaurant near Modesto.  It was time for my meltdown, and I just started losing it – Crying in frustrated not to be able to get on Wi-Fi.  This wasn’t just to check my email; my family was half unaccounted for.  Everything was saying to get online to report your “safe” status, check on loved ones, etc.  A young woman at the restaurant who was a bus girl, not even the waitress, came up as we were getting ready to leave, and gave me a $20 gift card for Starbucks.  She said she had been evacuated from the Rim Fire, and she knew how it felt.  Here was this young woman, just beginning to put her life back together, and sharing with me from her small earnings.  I thanked her, humbled, but also encouraged.

A couple of days later we dropped Pam at her son and daughter-in-law’s home in south Sacramento.  They were appreciative and gracious.  They gave me a beautiful box of designer chocolates and a card, which Mike and I opened later.  It included a $50 gift card.  Her daughter-in-law pulled me aside and told me that they had been checking the maps, and Pam’s home had been destroyed in the fire.  If I hadn’t driven separately from Mike, and stupidly or selfishly taken the wrong turn down Oliver, Pam would probably not be around for her 94th birthday in a couple of weeks.  God used my poor decisions to rescue a wonderful survivor of the Battle of Britain with an incredible dry English humor.  I am grateful that He used me as His instrument in this, but it was not any of my doing – just His.

After a few days near Modesto, we made our way to Christ the King Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, a suburb of Sacramento.  We stayed there for the weekend.  The Retreat Center warmly welcomed us, since we had been staying there for the Diaconate weekends since September.  As God’s providential plan will have it, St. Thomas More women’s retreat was that weekend.  Of the 14 scheduled women, only two came from our parish.  Unfortunately, both had lost their homes.  Without knowing each other, they had both been attending the same Saturday 5 pm Vigil Mass every week.  One of the women had a picture of her burned out lot, and diagonally from hers was the other woman’s lot, also burned out.

God used us to share some of our blessings with one of these women.  When we opened the nice card from Pam’s family there was a wonderful $50 gift card in it.  We knew we didn’t need it, so we prayed about who do give it to.  Immediately the woman from the parish came to mind.  She had met the other woman the week before the fire, while applying for a Thanksgiving basket.  I gave the woman the gift card, and said she could use it for Thanksgiving dinner, or some new clothes.   She pointed to her clothing and said those were her only clothes since the fire.

Later we shared the box of chocolates with some STM parishioners in a shelter in Chico where my mother and sister were staying.  Concern for my mother’s health and wanting her near medical care kept her in the shelter longer than many of us wanted her there.  While at the shelter we gave another parishioner the Starbuck’s card.  She had a Safeway card she didn’t need, which could be used to buy gas as well as groceries.  We had a sister leaving Chico for Redding in an old van, gas guzzler.  The card for gas was exactly what she needed.

Each step along the way, God was using us to connect with His people.  This wasn’t our doing.  We were just conduits of His grace.  One story seems still a little strange to me, but I will share it with you to illustrate.  At one point we were trying to decide where to eat in Sacramento.  I was in the mood for Mexican food and named a few places.  I also said a prayer about where we should go, and I felt like God was telling me “Taco Bell”.  I mentioned this option to my husband, and he rejected it, but I hadn’t told him about my prompting.  Then we were driving around, missed several turns, and came around the corner, and there was Taco Bell.  At this point it seemed like a good option, so we went in.  We haven’t eaten there recently, and there were new items on the menu.  I ordered something that I thought would be a filling meal, but instead was a small item.  So, I went back to order something else.  As I was approaching the counter an ambulance went by with its siren sounding.  Whenever I hear a siren, I bless myself and pray for the people in need and the emergency workers helping them.  This goes back to 9-11 times.  I didn’t even think about it, just did it.  After I ordered my items, a young worker who was on break came up and said to add an item for him, and he would pay for it.  Charlie has taught me to respectfully accept help when it is offered by someone, it is a grace to them as well as us.  So, I thanked him, and asked why he was helping me, he couldn’t know we were evacuees from the fire.  He said it was because of my Christian witness blessing myself at the ambulance.  We never know when our actions will be scrutinized.  I thanked him and felt humbled.  Is this why God wanted me to go to Taco Bell?  For the young man?  For me?  I still don’t know.

Lest you think me a hero, let me tell you I am not.  We are scrutinized for our actions both good and bad.  I was in a Dollar Tree store the other day and got upset and angry about not getting a printed receipt for a one-dollar item for a reimbursement.  I don’t know why I was so upset or acted like such an idiot over a dollar.  I guess the simple answer is pride, impatience, and a lack of conversion.  An opportunity for Examen and repentance.

There is one action that haunts me from the day of the fire.  There was a man who was probably homeless standing in front of Jack-in-the-Box across from St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church.  Right after I said my prayer of protection over the church.  He was standing there just looking at the sea of cars.  He didn’t say anything.  He didn’t ask for a ride, but I knew he wanted one.  I could have let him in my car.  I would have had to move “things” aside.  Pam didn’t want me to let him in.  I had previously promised Mike not to pick up strangers, which I have been known to do.  Was obedience to my husband the higher choice, or did fear stop me from helping this man in need?  I don’t know.  His face comes to me sometimes since the fire.  I hope he got out.

I am heartened to know that when the fire was getting very close, the police were opening cars and putting people in every available spot.  There were pickup trucks with people riding in the back with no seats or seat belts, like when I was growing up.

We were blessed with helping others and being helped by others in the days and weeks following the fire.  My mother and sister ended up in a shelter after the fire.  Since my mother needs to be on oxygen 24 hours per day, and her health has been precarious, it was thought she should remain where there was medical supervision.  However, this shelter started to have the norovirus spreading through it.  Finally, my mother succumbed to the illness, and said, “Get me out of here.”  She was put in a car just at the shelter curfew time of 10:00 pm with a little bucket as she got sick for the 90-minute drive to the closest motel room available.  Ultimately, a week later, my mother had to be taken by ambulance to an Emergency Room due to dehydration due to the norovirus.  After receiving a few liters by I.V., she was allowed to return “home” to her motel room in Redding.

Also, in the shelter were several parishioners of St. Thomas More.  Mike and I were making daily visits after work to check on my mother and sister, and then visit with these parishioners as well.  One 24-year-old woman was planning to leave on Monday, November 26th for Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to discern about joining an order of sisters there.  This trip had been planned and the plane ticket for the five-day visit had been purchased back in January.  We helped her over the next two weeks to make the plane and investigate this religious order.  She is there now, and due to come home soon.

Some of the help we received included a place to stay in the small community of Vina about 20 minutes north of Chico.  The first weekend after the fire I called my spiritual director who is a hermit, monk, and priest at the Abbey of New Clairvaux Monastery near there.  Since I thought I would have no job and no house, I knew I would be free for a couple of days, and he was finishing up a book that I had been editing.  I called him and said I would come and work on the book if he could arrange for me to stay near there for a couple of days.  It turned out the monks were all on retreat that week, so the usual guest rooms were unavailable.  However, there is a very generous couple who live in the town of Vina outside the monastery, and they have been putting us up ever since then.  They are kind, patient, and wonderful.  They are also the parents of an incredible priest in our diocese who is the pastor of a parish about an hour and a half away.  We have been truly blessed to get to know this couple.  The wife writes (paints) beautiful icons.  Mike and I are blessed to be able to drive five minutes to the monastery and join the monks in daily Mass and Lauds as our schedule allows.

This story would not be complete without sharing about the incredible outpouring of generosity, help, patience, and kindness of the Chico community.  Chico and the surrounding communities have a usual population of about 90,000.  After the fire, this swelled by another 50%.  Now traffic in the city was taking an incredible amount of time in some spots.  The lines for food and services everywhere were much longer.  I felt tempted to impatience dealing with this, and I was part of the problem of all of the people migrating down the hill from Paradise and Magalia.  However, I have yet to hear any complaints from the Chico residents.

St. Thomas More parish was temporarily moved to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Chico.  The pastor, staff, and parishioners could not have been more helpful.  Then the offices were moved temporarily to the Newman Center, where there was again more help and support for the staff.  Now the STM Office and services have been moved to another Chico parish, Our Divine Savior.  Once again, their help and kindness could not have been better.  We will have our first parish Mass since the fire this Sunday at 1 pm, celebrated by our pastor.  This will be a weekly event from now on to help us maintain our parish identity – until we can be back at home in our church.

St. Nicholas Episcopal Church office, pastor, and I were all moved to the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Chico.  The pastor, staff, and parishioners have been incredibly supportive and generous in helping us to get established and reach out to St. Nicks’ parishioners.

Both STM and St. Nicks’ have been working to contact all the parishioners to find out where they are now since the fire, how they are doing, and if they need any help.  Incredibly, neither parish has had any reported deaths from the fire as of this writing.  We are incredibly blessed!  We continue to pray for those who have lost loved ones and for the souls of those who died that day.

A few more quick stories before I close.  (Thank you so much, if you have persevered until now.  God please bless you and decrease your Purgatory for this sacrifice.)

Mike and I went to the St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church the first week after the fire to remove items from the office so that we could do payroll for the employees.  A Paradise Police Department Officer met us in an unmarked car at the Raley’s shopping center at the bottom of Skyway in Chico.  He drove us up in this car to the church to get our items. He was a wonderful, kind, and respectful young man.  He told us a couple of stories about the fire that really touched me.  First, there was a Deputy Sheriff and a CHP officer surrounded by fire, and no way to get them out.  So, another officer took a car and drove into the flames without being able to see them.  The car caught fire, but they were all able to get out alive.

Then the officer told about his own experience with about 200 other people in Paradise.  They were at Skyway and Clark where the construction is going on near the Optimo.  Many people had been sent there from cars broken down, out of gas, people on foot, etc.  This large group of people were on the cement pad, and they were completely surrounded by flames.  They were breaking out windows on the new buildings and shoving people inside.  This large group was saved only by a drop on them of fire retardant.  Thanks be to God!

One of the doctors in the practice Mike works for as Manager of Finance and Accounting was involved in saving a woman from a burning ambulance.  He and others went to a home that was burning and used hoses and spigots to save the home and the small group of people.  There is more information available on this on Facebook and from KCRA.

Finally, a little information about a story that I want to know more about, but I haven’t been able to hear the details.  My niece worked for a senior care home in Paradise.  On the day of the fire, many of their staff left, and only a handful of employees, including my niece were left to help.  I believe there were 70-90 residents in the facility.  My niece and her co-workers got out all but a dozen of the residents.  At the end there were no more transportation options, so she drove them out a couple at a time in her own car with her two teenage boys in the back seat.  She went around road barriers, defied evacuation orders, and took each group out in turn.  Each time she went back and got more, until the entire last dozen were out to safety.  She is now working taking care of these residents at a facility up in Redding.  To me, she is a real hero.

God is with us everywhere.  Loving us, protecting us, watching over us.  We are incredibly blessed!  I thank God for my life.  I am so grateful for my husband and my family.  I am grateful that my home survived in Magalia.  But that is just “stuff”.  We can replace “stuff”.  At Christmas time this year, hug your loved ones close and long.  Treasure every moment you can with them.  Presents are nice, but they are just “stuff”.  Enjoy being with your loved ones, treasure every moment, and thank God for all your gifts!

With Love-in-Christ,

Deon Mangan

89 thoughts on “Paradise on Fire

  1. WOW, Deon! What a dynamic recounting of your experiences! Thanks for sharing with us the many insights you had as you wrote these thoughts. Like pearls of great price are they! What struck me, even as I was mesmerized by the story unfolding, were these gems:

    *One of the graces that helped me resist this temptation was the other quiet heroes, going about their business in the unfolding emergency…

    *Their faithfulness gave me courage…

    *This was one of those times when the Holy Spirit inspires you, prays through you…

    *Since I had sent Mike a text encouraging him to go, he prayed a fervent prayer, asking for guidance from God about whether he should stay or go. “Lord, if you want me to go, please give me a very clear sign.”…

    *So, Mike, following the rule of obedience to legitimate authority (and the clear sign from God which came promptly within five minutes of his prayer for direction)…

    *and their sole focus was on helping us and getting us to safety. These quiet heroes saved many that day…

    *In spite of this dire situation, Mike was feeling strangely calm, because he was praying the Rosary using a CD we have from the Mary Foundation.

    All Glory to God for how He used you, for your fiat and for the blessing you have brought us with your writing. Beautiful!

    Liked by 14 people

  2. O God, I am in AWE of Your Mercy and protection of so many people in harms way.

    Dion, you have shown us what it it means to live TNRS. Surely God has been glorified by the unselfish acts of mercy and love that you and so many have performed during this crisis. I can not wrap my mind around going through such a terror. Praying for you all.

    Liked by 8 people

  3. Deon, thank you for sharing your remarkably inspiring first-hand account of that dreadful day. I am amazed at the miracles, blessings and graces that you witnessed and were a part of. God is good. Continued prayers for all in the aftermath. ❤

    Liked by 7 people

  4. Deon,
    I’m grateful to hear your story. It has touched my heart greatly. As you know, I emailed you and was so nervous when it took several days for you to respond. Larry and I were praying for you and Mike. I asked Paula also if she had heard from you. *(We met Deon and Mike through TNRS) We are all grateful that you are safe!
    God bless you and your family!
    Cheryl

    Liked by 8 people

  5. Reading your powerful account Deon I feel with you that a great many people were blessed with protection on November 8. I expect and hope that an equal number see the hand of God in accounting for their survival and have been able to thank Him daily with you. Thank you so much for this first-hand report and I hope and pray that you and your family ‘come down’ from this terrifying experience without any troubling consequences. May God continue to bless you all in the process of rebuilding. How to make your Advent preparations amidst of such drama? – I pray your priests will be able to assist in this unique task following such an ‘easy’ and obvious Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 7 people

  6. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around all of this. Perhaps it would be easier if the name of the epicenter of the event was something other than Paradise.

    Paradise on fire. Roiling, unstoppable walls of fire and smothering smoke. Leaving physical, mental and emotional destruction in its wake.

    And yet, other effects draw out attention as recounted in the Mangan’s story. Heroism. Courage. Service. Faith. Hope. Love. Trust in God.

    And the importance of community.

    Sharing, caring and making contact. Coming together. Helping one another. Patience and endurance. Love of neighbor. The fruit of the second Joyful mystery.

    You have provided an extraordinary example of how to rise to the challenge.

    Thanks for sharing this story with us.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Beckita I have to believe there are lessons to learn from the Paradise fire. This was the Storm in a microcosm. How to survive the Storm? The Mangans and others are examples of survival in an almost “how to” kind of way. They could and should write a manual of survival in the Storm.

        The importance of communication and networking comes through loud and clear. No man is an island. Those who live on an island are in trouble during storms.

        We all need to really go to school on all aspects of what occurred to and at Paradise.

        The Boy Scout motto comes to mind: Be Prepared

        https://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2017/05/08/be-prepared-scout-motto-origin/

        “Upon hearing the Scout motto, someone asked Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell the inevitable follow-up question.

        “Prepared for what?”

        “Why, for any old thing,” he replied.

        In Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell wrote that to Be Prepared means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.”

        His idea was that Scouts should prepare themselves to become productive citizens and strong leaders and to bring joy to other people. He wanted each Scout to be ready in mind and body and to meet with a strong heart whatever challenges await him.”

        Whether they know it or not the Mangans and others in Paradise were prepared to deal with that any old thing that descended on them in a wrath of fire one morning. What prepared them? How do we apply it to ASOH?

        Liked by 6 people

        1. I concur with so many of your thoughts, Ed, and it is why I responded as I did above in my own comments. The insights and wisdom Deon has shared reflect the core message of TNRS-ASOH that has been presented, again and again, in the various topics of discussion which Charlie has introduced in his writings since the inception of his blog. Surely his mystical input guided the selection of the themes presented for writing and the ensuing discussions. While many of these lessons had been learned and honed in each of our lives of faith in various ways and settings throughout the years before arriving here, what I have experienced, is an emphasis by Charlie on the very themes Deon described in her recounting of how she, her husband and family and her community navigated the dangers inherent in the wildfires. Perhaps I should have been more clear in my intent with quoting as I did, for our TNRS lessons are all over those quotes. Let me try again:

          *One of the graces that helped me resist this temptation was the other quiet heroes, going about their business in the unfolding emergency… (How, often, Charlie – others as well – have stressed the quotable, “Do the little you can do right in front of you.” Those quiet heroes to whom Deon refers were doing just that as chaos, registering in the very heat felt by the raging fires, was developing all around them. Too, those quiet heroes, then, were a sign of hope to Deon so she could consciously resist the temptation to be overwhelmed by fear that she could carry on with the little she was doing, which was actually a BIG deal and which made her, in turn, a sign of hope to those she encountered.)

          *Their faithfulness gave me courage… (Another sign of hope beaming courage to Deon)

          *This was one of those times when the Holy Spirit inspires you, prays through you… (Acknowledging God brought inspiration from Holy Spirit)

          *Since I had sent Mike a text encouraging him to go, he prayed a fervent prayer, asking for guidance from God about whether he should stay or go. “Lord, if you want me to go, please give me a very clear sign.”… (Acknowledging God before taking the next right step)

          *So, Mike, following the rule of obedience to legitimate authority (and the clear sign from God which came promptly within five minutes of his prayer for direction)… (Obeying legitimate authority has come up often in discussions here with examples of living witness to the fruit of such as this)

          *and their sole focus was on helping us and getting us to safety. These quiet heroes saved many that day… (TNRS-ASOH all the way!)

          *In spite of this dire situation, Mike was feeling strangely calm, because he was praying the Rosary using a CD we have from the Mary Foundation. (Another witness to acknowledging God, thus drawing strength to continue trusting God with readiness to continue taking next right steps.)

          I actually left off another TNRS-ASOH lesson shared by Deon that has been repeatedly brought to the fore here: even when we err in our next right step, God can still draw good from it when we have done the best we could do given our circumstances. Deon noted God doing just that when she had made a decision to take a specific route on her drive to get out of the fire which she felt was an erroneous NRS.

          I’ll just bet readers can find examples from Deon’s writing, of additional TNRS-ASOH lessons discussed and reviewed over the life of this blog. I like to think that these lessons are tucked within us and read for action whenever needed. I see that the Mangans beautifully applied TNRS-ASOH to what they lived in their crisis.

          And this brings me to a request for prayer, please. I’ve had a few health challenges for the last month – just taking my turn with all of us here – which have kicked me heinie. I’m healed of the walking pneumonia now but need yet to recover some strength and need an imaging test to address another health concern. Please pray for me to be up and running strongly soon, God-willing, so I can get to work on a great idea which Charlie wishes to bring forth as support for you in our community.

          In closing, I’m sharing passages from Charlie’s piece which was posted in September, three years ago. It is entitled: Live It. Boy! Deon and Mike, you surely did! Thank you for being a shining sign of hope for us!

          From Charlie:

          “Imagine you have outfitted a canoe to navigate through a chain of lakes and streams. It is best to lay out a plan on how to steer through the various streams and what direction to take in order to reach your desired destination, for you are in control…you are driving, as it were. That is normal life. Now imagine that same canoe at the beginning of a great series of rapids you are not familiar with. The first thing to understand is that you are not driving, but being driven. In this case, having a plan on where to steer and what direction to take will likely cause you to capsize – for you do not know what turns and dangers are coming or when they will appear. Instead, you are called to react quickly and skillfully to whatever turns and obstacles arise as they arise. Survival depends on how well you respond to challenges in the present moment.

          Right now we are in the early stages of an intensifying series of spiritual rapids. I get a host of letters and comments these days telling me, with great grief, that no matter how someone plans something, it is not coming out right…or about deepening divisions in families…or in shock at the latest outrage perpetrated by the ruling and chattering classes. As St. Peter said, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal, which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”-I Peter 4:12,13. I have told you that these things must come – and so they have begun. I have told you that your only source of security is to abandon yourself to God, then do what is right in front of you, trusting that He will ultimately bring all things to right. Yet some have used what I have said to devise their own plans to avoid the consequences of all this – and now are frightened that their plans are not working out. If you are in that place, be thankful it is happening to you now, for it is simply God gently relieving you of the illusion that you can rely on your efforts rather than His Grace. Do not think I am chiding you: I had decades to learn this. As I have occasionally said, I hope you are all quicker learners than I was, for events have reached a pass where you must be. But if you have such sorrows now, be thankful that you are close enough to what you should be that God finds it profitable to reprove you and bring you along to a real trust. Save your sorrow for those who have no idea there is anything to be sorrowful about, for by the time many of them learn, it will be too late for them to correct their course without a heroic effort.

          Are there painful divisions in your family and among your friends? There are the same in mine – and in almost every family I know. And those divisions have ratcheted up dramatically this year. But I told you late last year that they would. You will not convince anyone by becoming more manically insistent on what you believe. Rather you must imitate the farmer.

          Consider the farmer: he plants a seed, then must wait up to a week for a sprout to appear. It is a month before a real plant takes shape – and even longer than that for fruit to appear. He conjures neither the plant nor the fruit, but merely waters the ground – and in due time, God raises up a plant which bears fruit. When you speak with confident joy about what you believe, you plant a seed. Once you have done that, simply live what you say you believe with the same joy. When you do that, you water the ground. But to continue to try to push on the unwilling what you believe is to constantly root around where you planted, disturbing the ground and perhaps choking the tender plant before it can take firm root. The farmer must trust God for the increase after he has planted the seed. So must you. Every day that you spend arguing the faith instead of living it with confident joy after you have planted the seed, you are actually withholding water from that tender plant even as you dig around its roots. Stop trying to frantically conjure fruit and trust God for the increase…

          So it is all the more critical that as things get darker, you live your joyful confidence visibly and lightly. If you speak of joy but your countenance is ever clouded with worry or panic, your life gives the lie to your words. Live it. That is the witness that transforms lives. When you feel it, live it. When you don’t feel it, live it. When you are exuberant, live it. When you are exhausted, live it. If I had a dime for every convert who told me that my consistent easy confidence drew them into the faith, I would not be rich – but I would have a LOT of dimes. Live it.

          Your friends hear what you say, but they also see your face. In the midst of the Storm, while Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on the water, too. When he was distracted by the terrors of the storm, he began to sink. Your friends see your face and know whether you have confidence in the Jesus you speak of, or whether you have been panicked by the storm around you. If it is the latter, know that however polite they might be to you, they have already decided the peace they seek is not here. Live it – and you will be a true evangelist. In these times, every time you give way to panic or stridency, you dishearten those you are called to evangelize. Your serene and joyful confidence IS the lifeline for multitudes around you.

          I know this is hard. Even now, I often say to the Lord, along with the father of the troubled son, “I do believe. Help my unbelief.”–Mark 9:24.

          Love those around you and live it always.”

          Liked by 6 people

          1. Beckita: Praying for your health. May God send His healing power.

            There is so much going on in the Mangan’s story, and the comments so far, that it is hard to take it all in. I will have to stop and read it all in one sitting and then meditate prayerfully on the same.

            Even though I have only partially gone over all that is here, one thing struck me immediately. Being prepared often is thought of as having, in advance, the right equipment, having mental and physical training, having the correct information. All these are important and necessary but they can drive us crazy trying to be ready for everything when we know we can’t.

            It is like the story of Mary and Martha, when Jesus came to their house. Martha was busy, with good things, preparing, seeing that everyone would be cared for and fed. Mary was preparing, for the ultimate trials they would face, by listening to every word from the Savior.

            The most important thing is being prepared to listen to God. The Holy Spirit gives us words and promptings. God is constantly speaking to us. We need to practice hearing, understanding and putting into practice those promptings. If we have learned to do this in small things (our daily lives) we will be able to do them in great things.(times of danger, opposition and stress). God does not abandon us. Even in the midst of the burning furnace, He is there.

            God, give us ears to hear and hearts to understand. Let us prepare by devouring your word.

            JT

            Liked by 5 people

            1. JT, you have hit it exactly. This is a large part of what I have been trying to inculcate since I started writing about these things. Deon’s piece demonstrated it through the actions she recounts. Just an amazing narrative – and what an incredibly hope-filled story!

              Liked by 3 people

              1. Thank you for sharing this amazing true life story. I totally ‘got it’ that it is an example of how we have to put into practice: Trust,Love, Do…TNRS.

                This story is invaluable.
                All the lessons of God’s love and constancy.

                Thank you Deon for sharing! And also Charlie for sharing.

                I pray this story remains in our minds for when we each have to deal with our own events.

                Praise be to God!

                Liked by 3 people

              1. Beckita: I am up and about and back at work, although not full time. Second follow up doctor’s appointment this morning and my oxygen levels were the highest they have been. It is a slow but steady improvement. Over the weekend I reached the stage where I felt good, did too much, and then seemed to move backwards. When God is telling us to rest we really need to listen. Thanks again for everyone’s prayers. First Advent candle is lit!

                Still praying for you. Take it slow and steady. (and I will try to follow my own advice.) All good things in God’s time.

                JT

                Liked by 6 people

          2. Beckita, Fervent prayers ascending for your health to be totally restored. Deon, Thank you for taking the time to write this; both terrifying and inspiring. JT, so true your statement:
            ‘We need to practice hearing, understanding and putting into practice those promptings. ‘
            I used to listen to classical music while doing chores, but lately I feel compelled to just work in silence, so I can hear the Holy Spirit.

            Liked by 4 people

  7. We are a world in turmoil:
    Protests In France Leave Gas Stations Running Dry: Paris Riots Worst Since 1968

    “’Yellow Jacket’ protesters blocking access to 11 fuel depots belonging to one of the world’s biggest oil companies have left gas stations running dry in France.

    At least 75 of the company’s 2,200 gas stations were out of fuel, a spokesman for energy giant Total said Monday. For more than two weeks, protesters angry over gas taxes and the high cost of living have been blocking roads across France, impeding access to fuel depots, shopping malls and some airports.”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Your story is an amazing account of faith and courage you showed in this life changing event. The story gives witness to all ~ that they might have this faith when they will need it. I cried in so many parts, and thank you for relaying this story. We know we cannot personally relate to the horror and terror so many lived through in those weeks in California, however, through this writing, all that happened will be remembered, and we will share this with our families, hopefully to build on our own faith and love for others. Thank you, as this amazing accounting has deeply touched my heart. A true example of TNRS. May Christ Peace be with you now and though out this time.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. Perfect timing? Seems like a oxymoron even when a perfect God tries to save a imperfect human race. The appropriate terminology should probably be maximum results/effect, the best option, or even the most desirable option.

    It is a oxymoron when you contrast the perfect outcomes for individuals against each other and a general society of individuals who oppose individuals on a different trajectory.

    I guess lesser individuals are often sacrificed to a duration of a unmerciful humanity, and wiped out.

    This where a perfect merciful saviour comes into play, as who else will we turn to (on judgement day) for the unfair trials of corrupt humanity.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are right Sansan – prayers were coming from all around the world as that massive event unfolded. From the first moment in Deon’s account when she and Mike received the early phone call and they took the extra minutes to pack a bit more other than the ‘go bag’ to her decisions to take different roads and indeed in every moment that choices had to be made, I can see those world-wide prayers in God’s hands working for the good of all, cushioning the impact of those decisions.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. Dear Mangan family,
    Thank-you for this witness. I was in tears and was sharing your fears as you recounted your drive through the holocaust. So grateful for your witness of TNRS/ASOH. I pray this for us all when the time comes.

    Beckita, when Charlie first published that essay 3 years ago I certainly took it to heart. At times I find myself repeating parts to myself – especially the part about trying to make “A Plan.” HA! God just smiles at our planning and scheming. I try to go through my days in cheerful confidence.

    Continued prayers for all,
    katey in Oregon 🎄🌲

    Liked by 3 people

  11. With all this over the media is again constantly reminding us about so called “climate change’ and expecting these things to get worse. So I wonder how much of this is caused by lack of clearing brush free zones around urban areas, etc? Just wondering from those who know the area best? So grateful to God for those who made it safely out!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I was doing radio in Chicago back in the early 90’s, Bob, I was saying that “environmentalists” in California’s plan to abandon clearing deadwood, heavy brush or do controlled burns would eventually cause the occasional wildfires in the state to become catastrophic conflagrations. It is simply a matter of what is called fuel-loading…which has been well understood by forestry managers for almost two centuries. Even if man-made global warming were true, it would have nothing to do with these catastrophic fires. they are due to the ignorant and arrogant hubris of willful people who thought they knew better than two centuries of sound forest management practice.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Exactly, Charlie. We do have a few intelligent people here in CA, and one of them was talking on a radio show about this very problem. Environmentalists have prevented the clearing of dead wood, thus contributing to the fires.

        This story of survival was amazing. I had all kinds of emotions, tears, and goose bumps. God help us all and prayers for you, Beckita.

        Hope there are no typos, my eyes are having a hard time.

        Liked by 3 people

  12. Praying for you Beckita! I know you put yourself into the mix of everyone with our own crosses but if memory serves me you were unwell at the time of Fr Wang’s birthday and even back in August – this has been a long haul for you – a fire of your own – so I pray for a quick and complete recovery and a clear test result, may the doctors treating you have fresh inspiration. It’s early summer days for me here so for you heading into the cold and wet months we NEED you to be well, please God! 😊🙏🏼

    Liked by 4 people

    1. What a great memory you have, Karen. I do have to work at strengthening my immune system as I seem to have pretty frequent under the weather episodes of this and that virus. Thanks so much for your prayers, Karen. ❤️

      Thanks to All in this community for your prayers and kind thoughts.

      Liked by 4 people

  13. Dear Beckita – so sorry to hear about your health problems. Pneumonia is a butt-kicker (excuse my language but it is true) and it takes a while to recover. You need to be very coddling of yourself – and no guilt – until you feel more normal. (I am a very bossy NP, sorry) Today is the start of Our Lady of Guadelupe novena: will put you in there. Sending warm and cozy blessings.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. A butt-kicker indeed, Dear Jane. Love it when bossy teachers and bossy nurses step up to speak and act for the good. “Twas a nasty one indeed and the biggest challenge has been recovering strength but I really get Who’s, ultimately, in charge and I’m grateful God is. I am.

      I think y’all will LOVE what’s cooking as support for this community as we press on in TNRStepping through God’s Justice and Mercy, poured out from His Pure Love.

      Thank you so very much for being included in your novena, Jane. ❤️ And beau coup thanks to Annie, contemplative grandma, Dianebelvs, Dorothy, Elina, for the sake of His sorrowful passion, Jen, JT, Judith, Karen, Kim, Marie, Mick and San San. Love you All in this community and you know how we tend to each other in this community and beyond… so, lifting your needs and those of your family in prayer and penance as we carry on.

      Liked by 3 people

  14. Praying for you Beckita, for a surge of strength and negative test results! It’s difficulty to be ill and continue with your duties . I’m sure we all want you to take time out that you need .
    I am so amized and thankful that so many cars made it to safety on that one road and that her niece must have made at least four trips in her area to get the elderly to safety with her teen sons needed to help move/ carry out the last twelve.So much in that story
    So comforting to know that if we make the next “ mistake” step in faith,God will turn us around.i I picture myself going around in circles.,.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Deon, thank you for sharing your and Mike’s story. You are heroes, as are many of the people whom you described. I am particularly in awe of your niece and her sons. God bless you and your extended family, and my God bless all those who are still reeling from the California wildfires.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on all of the victims of the fire and on Beckita
    for her health, and on the whole world. Amen

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Praying for you dear Beckita…
    May our merciful Lord restore your health fully.
    You have an incredible ministry here and we need you so much!
    🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Prayers Going-Up for the Fire Victims, health and well being of Beckita ….. and ALL here!
    Am I just and Ol’ Conspiracy seeking curmudgeon or has anybody else noticed that the CA Fires News coverage seems to be fairly muted considering the extent of the damage and Human Tragedy? The Usual “Media” Suspects made feeble attempts to, somehow, blame Trump but they soon realized that “that dog wouldn’t hunt”. Since all but fools could easily figure out that it was the policies, idiocy and corruption of Governor Moonbeam/Administration and/or Democrat Legislature that …. Never Mind!! … ….. lets talk about Porn Lawyers and what Hollywood thinks about ……..
    and ominous news that portends that The USA (Christendom) may be headed into a “Fire” of historical significance:
    Patriotism in Decline: Survey Shows 1 in 5 Millennials Sees U.S. Flag as ‘Sign of Intolerance and Hatred’
    https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/emily-ward/patriotism-decline-survey-shows-1-5-millennials-sees-us-flag-sign

    I’d bet the farm that the same USA hating radicals that are instilling the below in our young people are also teaching that The Sign of the Cross is a ‘Sign of Intolerance and Hatred’….. 20%!!??…. we have so little time now to ……….

    GOD SAVE ALL HERE!!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. A house that is divided cannot stand, the country is having it’s foundations eroded away until it all comes tumbling down. Patriotism is spin doctored into intolerance & hatred, so the new generation will behave treasonously.

      Like

      1. Was watching old movie, “The Mortal Storm”. Set in Germany when Hitler took over. Students turned on what had been a beloved Jewish professor teaching biology. They said that Hitler said aryan blood was different from non aryan blood. They asked the professor what he thought. He said that all human blood was the same-a settled scientific fact. He was executed for that. Reminds me so much of what’s going on in our society now. We are asked to accept that a man can become a woman or vice versa. Totally contrary to science! Whatever butchery someone might have done to their body, a man will always be a man and a woman will always be a woman. But if we don’t go along with their insanity we are labeled haters.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. A coupla’ observations.

      First, many of the so called “conspiracies” are simply a matter of public record (e.g. – The UN has been quite clear as to what they are trying to accomplish in the world… at the expense of a real common good in many an opinion… whether it has issued from some official’s mouth or has been credibly published in official missives). There are, of course, myriad raging conspiracy theories in circulation, and I think solely for the purpose of adding to the great delirium/confusion. Remember, satan is the instigator of this worldly agenda. His pathetic kingdom. Yep, it’s a damn shame that there are so many willing subjects.

      Second, I think it’s pretty clear that the regular (i.e. – regular to our reckoning of past years/decades) news cycles are experiencing complete overload. Just take a gander at the Drudge Report on any given day. The vast majority of those headlines would have dominated the news cycle for months and months on end in older days… probably making the top news stories of the year features. Practically no one, not even Matt Drudge (who seems to have lost his center lately) can keep pace with this stuff.

      Third, ever wonder what the turning of an age looked/sounded/felt like? Whether talking about it with great vigor (frequently) or simply pondering these things in our hearts, I can’t imagine that we’re not all aghast. Clearly, we are. And as they say, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

      Fourth, with regard to that sentence: “…we ain’t seen nothing yet,” here’s my question for each: What did that sentence elicit in the mind’s eye?

      I began the nine-day Novena today to Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is the Queen of Heaven and quite the image in my mind, imploring on our behalf with a Mother’s Love at His Throne. Ceaselessly.

      The darker it gets, the more I’m not letting anything get in God’s way (and where God is in His Triune Perfection, there’s The Mother as well). In that vein, here’s a dream I had some weeks ago and have been pondering ever since. I’ve been hesitant to talk about to anyone but my own ma, but the time seems ripe:

      I was in the vestibule of a Church (I think it was the local St. Patrick’s) with dozens of other people. There was a life size statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Everyone else was shuffling busily about, paying no mind to the statue of Our Mother. First, Her eyes became animated, searching the crowd. Next, there She was in full form, in place of the statue, obviously sad that no one paid her any mind. I was desperate for Her to look my way as Her eyes continued to search over the crowd. Ultimately, I just pushed my way through and noticed Her weeping as I was standing before Her. There were no words exchanged. She just took my hand in Hers and I still remember quite clearly that soft, loving hand of Our Mother. Nothing was said, but really everything was said as far as I’m concerned.

      Some days I’m sorely tempted to pick up a good piece of Desert Ironwood and let the nearest screeching nitwit have it. Can’t though, since I’d have to let go of Her hand.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. ” I can’t imagine that we’re not all aghast. Clearly, we are. And as they say, we ain’t seen nothing yet.’
        ‘Fourth, with regard to that sentence: “…we ain’t seen nothing yet,” here’s my question for each: What did that sentence elicit in the mind’s eye?” (MP).
        In context to this article about fire, I’ve contemplated the good and bad of it and your right: what’s next?
        The conflagration in Paradise or the Flame of Love?
        The flaming sulphur falling upon Sodom or the tounges of fire alighting on the Apostles?
        The hail falling from the sky and burning on the ground or the Burning Bush?
        The Fires of Hell or the Fires of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts?
        Fire as our friend and comforter?
        or
        Fire as our worst enemy?
        To believe we, “ain’t seen nothing yet”, is to forget what history has shown us and to close our eyes to its lessons for in this past is a glimps of our future. A prophesy is a past statement of future events and past history is a prophetic realm for those who “see”.
        If by these past events, we then see and understand, “agast” we are. But if we ignore the past we are doomed to repeat it and our sins remain and the consequences of them felt.
        As Jesus told the Pharisees: “You say you see so your sins remain”.
        May we look back to the future and live but not seek the sulphuric past and thus turn into a dead pillar of salt.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Most tragic of all is that we have forgotten the lesson, the history if you will, etched across all time. That we have the dignity of sons and daughters of God, made for God, bound to be blessed citizens of Heaven should we at least have the tiniest spark of good will.

          We must, however, first undergo the birthing process (and yes, history too can help us on the way if it does not degenerate into merely human concerns). In fact, giving birth to ourselves, the eternal selves that remain after the flesh and the little it amounts to burns away, by our will… the slightest desire would suffice in light of Mercy.

          “We know that until now all creatures sigh and are in birthpangs.”

          Indeed, there’s no getting around the labor which ends (a new beginning) in glory, but we can certainly hope, pray and do what we can to remove any hindrances –– any obstructions in the birth process many of which we place there ourselves with a lack of faith-filled focus –– with a too heavy humanity that we just can’t seem to overcome sometimes because we dare not look up and let the spirit rise beyond worldly matters.

          Yes, to arrive at this glorification it is necessary to sigh and suffer with patience and hope, with faith and love, just like a mother (and the Mother of the Church) who for long months (and millenia) suffers and hopes, and willingly confronts pain in order that she can give birth to her child.

          It is indeed a trial by fire, Phil. Either the soul rising, purged by the Flame of His Love, or a dead soul descending into the abyss of fire that is not quenched.

          I can’t entirely relate to you what “we ain’t seen nothing yet” elicits in me, other than to say that I endeavor to look up, in spite of all the voices telling me otherwise.

          All that said, it is written: “what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived –– the things God has prepared for those who love Him –– these are the things that God has revealed to us by His Spirit.”

          We either believe it or we don’t. The surest sign that we believe it: that we live it to the extent that God makes possible for each of us. Right now.

          Liked by 3 people

  19. Any thoughts on the 1896 book called “The last president” whose name is Baron Trump? A fictional fluke or something more?

    Climate change seems to be scam to distract people from realizing we’ve lost God’s protection in nature as a society. If people want to stop “climate change” a lot more repentance, rejection of sin/evil, and a return to God is needed.

    Like

  20. “if I were to die, I had the great grace of being in a “state of grace”.  I have no illusions that I would be going straight to Heaven.  I’m sure there would be time in Purgatory, but the grace that comes from daily Eucharist and the Rosary, monthly Confession, and participating in my faith was also very reassuring.  I realized that if this was the day that God was taking me home, then I was ready, and I wanted to go out like his other quiet heroes.” Now that is the best preparation one can do. I found this most touching.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Speaking of the Eucharist too many Catholics do not fully grasp the Real Presence or Miracle of the Eucharist. Over the centuries there have been over 140 bleeding hosts. There is a great Vatican Exhibit on them.. A number of these have happened in the last 20 years and were evaluated by scientists. Their conclusions are inspirational. The following short video covers 5 of them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKc74WJXBfk&list=PLcZ2BdaOF069oi7AyFyERMz1rxNlgmdE1&index=3

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Dear Deon, Thank you for this awesome detailed account of Nov. 8 fire in Paradise! This is so incredibly well written. You are an awesome writer w an awesome heart for God! So much courage and strength and discernment for how to proceed.

    It’s an honor to work and serve w you! Love in Christ,
    Pastor Ann Sullivan

    Liked by 2 people

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