Too Close To The Flames

Too Close To The Flames

Thanks to one man who disregarded orders and jumped into action, my family wasn’t one of the over 1500 who lost their homes in the Valley fire last month.

 My family has owned two properties in Pope Valley just outside of Napa for over 70 years. The Hubcap Ranch is at the bottom of Pope Valley, surrounded by vineyards. The Top Ranch is located on top of a mountain about five miles away. Uncle Dan is finishing construction on the vacation home located at Top Ranch.

As one of the finishing touches, he hired Greg, a family friend and stone mason to build a fireplace. About a week after his work started, Dan went to check on Greg’s progress. What he found pissed him off. The fireplace had barely been touched. Dan did notice that the huge field in front of the house was weed whacked down to about four inches instead of the six-foot grass from the week before. That’s not what he hired Greg to do. If he wanted the yard maintained he would have hired a landscaper. What the heck?!

He felt like Greg was taking advantage of him. He told me, “Greg’s job was to build the fireplace not to waste time whacking the field. I need this fireplace finished.” Dan exclaimed. He confronted Greg and asked why he was wasting Dan’s money and time by mowing the field when Greg was hired for his highly skilled labor. Greg is humble, and not confrontational at all. He just replied to Dan that he was sorry and that he would get right to work on the fireplace.  Dan was still upset and was doubting his decision to hire Greg.

A few nights later Dan was shaken awake by his sister-in-law “Dan, you need to come look at this!” Half asleep, he stumbled outside and saw the glow of an inferno cresting the mountain directly beside The Top Ranch. All of a sudden, Dan had visions of the house engulfed in flames. He raced to The Top Ranch to see if he could prevent the fire from destroying everything they had built.

Dan arrived at the property to see his brother Mike and family friend Chris fighting the fire which had completely surrounding the house. It was extremely hot, and burning embers were flying through the air igniting everything they touched. Every patch of grass and brush was on fire. The field right near the house had been completely engulfed, but since the grass was so short, it had burned itself out.

Ten hours later the fight was over and the house was safe. Burnt, sweaty and and exhausted, Uncle Dan sat on the porch and surveyed the devastation all around him. He looked at the front field and was rocked by a thought. If that field was still six foot tall grass, the flames would have been a 15 foot tall inferno and the fire’s momentum would have engulfed the house for sure.

Greg, the man whose integrity and intelligence Dan had questioned was the reason Dan’s house was still standing.  

It turns out, that a week earlier, Greg had been on the property laying the foundation for the fireplace when he smelled the smoke from a nearby fire. He saw fire fighting planes flying overhead and realized that the house was in danger. He jumped to action. Greg wanted to work on the fireplace, but instead trusted his instincts and prepared the yard to withstand the fire. He knew that if the fire found the six-foot tall grass in the front yard, the house was a goner. So, he went against his boss’s orders, abandoned his work and started whacking.

Sometimes in life we think we know exactly what we want, but in reality we are too close to see what is truly important. In this case Dan suffered from short-sighted thinking. He would have been happy with his new fireplace finished on schedule. Fortunately for him Greg had vision and the courage to act on it. Greg made it possible for the whole house to survive instead of leaving it’s burnt out husk around a beautiful free standing fireplace.

Where in your life is short-sighted thinking holding you back?

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