Wagner Dodge was a smoke jumper who was called to fight a fire in Mann Gulch, Montana in 1945. Gulch wildfires are notoriously difficult to control – the safest route was for the fire team to make their way down the slope towards water. But the fire jumped from one side of the valley to the other, and a wall of fire began racing up the hill towards the men. They ran away. Well, when faced with a wall of flame 200 feet high, what would you do…?
Wagner Dodge didn’t run. He realised that if he ran from the fire he would die. Heat rises. Fire accellerates uphill. Wagner Dodge stopped, lit a match. He made a circle of fire around himself, and laid down in the charred earth while the flames raced towards him. Fire can’t burn what’s already been scorched. This seemingly crazy, counter-intuitive and irrational action, saved his life.
I’ve given Wagner Dodge a lot of thought since mid-September. My own forest fire has been of the emotional kind. Like an inferno, love sparks disaster and has the power to melt rocks. Just not the ones in my heart, the moment I realised someone I love was lost to me. There was only one thing to do. To save myself from total immolation, I took a metaphorical match to my heart’s desire and set it ablaze. Fire can’t burn what’s already been scorched.