Image Credit: Kathy Hernandez

Milo Adventist Academy Escapes Wildfire

Flames leaped from tree tops sending a huge column of smoke billowing from the ridge just south of Milo Adventist Academy in Days Creek on July 30. The Stouts Creek Fire, which was first reported at 1 p.m., grew to 200 acres in the first three hours. Students and staff gathered in the parking lot to watch, wondering what would happen to their school.

A meeting was called, and everyone met in the library to wait for instructions. Randy Thornton, Milo Adventist Academy principal, was upbeat as he shared the information he received from firefighters, confident that God would protect Milo. He gave instructions for everyone to go back to the dorms and pack a bag with anything they would need for an overnight trip, in case they had to evacuate. After praying together, students and staff dispersed to make preparations.

Just before 4 p.m., the wind was blowing toward the campus, and the flames were only one-half mile away. A group of staff watching the smoke decided to pray together then sent out word via social media for their friends and family to also pray for Milo. In less than an hour, thousands of people were praying for the school. In what those present recognized as a direct answer to those prayers, the wind shifted away from the academy. Chad Reisig, Milo Academy Church pastor, pointed out that the fire seemed to be headed toward Milo’s neighbors. More prayers ascended, and the wind blew the fire into a wilderness area. The fire raged until it consumed more than 6,000 acres by 8 p.m. In spite of its intensity and speed, firefighters kept it away from homes, and no structures were consumed.

Several staff stayed up most of the night keeping an eye on the fire in case evacuation would be necessary. Photography teacher Peter Hernandez says he “felt apprehensive and vulnerable,” especially with his home being the closest among faculty homes to the blaze. “I wondered how far it would go," he admits.

Local television news station KVAL came out to Milo the next day and interviewed Thornton and David Echevarria, a Milo senior. Echevarria told Kelly Andersen of KVAL that he wasn’t too frightened, having seen wildfires in the area before. Thornton said while the smoke was inconvenient, he was “not concerned about any immediate danger.” KVAL showed photos and video footage of the Milo campus and plumes of smoke on its 6 p.m. news broadcast.

Every day helicopter pilots fought the fire from the air, dropping bucket after bucket of water from the river and nearby ponds. During church on Sabbath morning, the congregation praised God for answered prayers while the hum of helicopters continued overhead.

A smokey haze still covered the campus three weeks later on registration day. Occasional flare ups near Milo were quickly mopped up by firefighters. The Stouts Creek Fire, started by a lawn mower, ultimately spread to more than 26,000 acres, cost more than $38 million and was 98 percent contained in mid-September.

Milo staff and students thank God for His protection and appreciate everyone’s prayers on their behalf. To keep up with the latest news from Milo Adventist Academy, please like its page on Facebook.

Featured in: November 2015