Editor’s Note: The following prose-poem was written by Avola resident Kevin Deckert following the wildfires of 2003. The 10th anniversary of the fires seemed like an appropriate time to reprint it in the Times.
They stand with grim determination, their skin layered with soot and ash.
Here and there a tear from tormented eyes, a cough from tortured lungs. Yet they stand, with a warrior’s courage. Armed with simple weapons, listening to what is to come.
A rushing sound as the air is wrenched by the dragon’s wings. Upon them they feel the hot breath. Not one is truly ready for the incredible force raging beyond the ridge. The line of battle is drawn, deep scared upon the earth.
Over their shoulders they see friends and family, homes, memories. Before them they see the most terrifying force of nature known to man. Fire in its most nightmarish form.
The dragon of fire gathers its strength, fanning the flames to a frenzy.
The fire looks upon those who stand against it. The fire does not see the line dug in the earth, does not notice the faces of the warriors standing brave in its path. The fire looks forward with relentless rage and sees nothing but fuel. Soon many in the path will be forced to run, lives are at stake and instant decisions must be made. The warriors must find safety and shelter and then gather strength and face the dragon again on their own terms. They have no choice, to challenge the dragon and win they must somehow deny it fuel. The source of its strength, it’s being and purpose, without fuel it will surely die.
All around there is a massive abundance of fuel primed and ready to feed the ferocious and relentless force.
Deep in the warriors mind they are now marking this time indelible in history. Many in ages to come will question their actions, their reasoning, and their purpose.
No one can judge them, who have not felt the searing heat upon their face.
No one can judge them, who have not run from the flames taller than buildings and faster than a racehorse.
Darkness falls the dragon rages on; the warriors gain what little rest they can find to prepare them for battle on the morning again. As was the day before as will be the day after. Challenge, struggle, and move quickly, breathing hard, feeling the heat. Seeing the fire as a consuming dragon with nothing in its reckless path but the determination of those who toe the line!
Do not judge them, honor them as the great heroes that they are. Warriors of great heart, undeniable determination. We will never know all their names, yet there footsteps and there actions will be retold many a time in days and years to come.
Soon it will be time to rebuild, to harvest, and above all to cherish those we love.
As well as deeply thank those whose names we may never know. Whose courage and selflessness faced a dragon. Such is the stuff of legend.
Such is the page that history will mark as the summer of 2003.