Surviving the Carr Firenado

“We weren’t under evacuation orders. The fire was approaching from the west and the Sacramento River was between, so we weren’t panicked. Then in a flash, this guy was driving down the street with a bullhorn screaming “GET OUT!”

Video from YouTube shows the #CarrFire just before it hit the Lake Keswick Estates. You can see the ‘firenado’ beginning to swirl as wind and fire blend together.

“FIRENADO.” According to the National Weather Service, preliminary reports indicate the large fire whirl that occurred during the Carr Fire reached speeds in excess of 143 mph and was equivalent to an EF-3 tornado. Read more-

Super fires = Terrifying —  EF-3 tornadoes = Horrifying

143 mph Firenado = Apocalyptic

“Terrifying,” said Nick Bender of KMBC. “The fire whirl collapsed high tension power line towers, uprooted trees and stripped trees of their bark. Maximum winds were estimated at 143 mph, which is equivalent to an EF-3 tornado.”

Sherry Lalonde of  Lake Keswick Estates in Redding said, “This ‘thing’ was at the end of our block in seconds, surprising everyone, the sound was deafening – scariest moment of my life!”

They had prepared all the items they thought were important and had them ready by the front door. They could see the fire approaching from the west, but the Sacramento River was between them and the fire.  No evacuation orders had been given, so they weren’t really worried.

Across the street - Sherry LaLonde

Picture of their house taken from across the street by bell – Picture courtesy of Sherry Lalonde

“All of a sudden a man rushed through the street with a bullhorn screaming “GET OUT!” The fire had breached the river a mile or two south of us and was coming up a canyon creating a 700-foot plus firenado and flanking us. It ripped out trees, picked up trucks and threw them. We had less than two minutes to escape. It surprised everyone.”

Sherry continues, “The look on the faces of the emergency personnel directing traffic was like something you’d see in a horror movie.”

The cat hid under the bed and there was no time to get him. Grabbing their dog and go-bag by the door, they had less than a minute to run. Sherry and Alan saw the immense fire tornado than 4-5 houses away at the end of their street in the now infamous July 29 #CarrFire.

“The sound was deafening as we raced to get away. It was terrifying and we are grateful to be alive and shocked that this monster,” she said on her Facebook page. “It felt like being in a Hollywood disaster movie where they get out at the last minute – very dramatic.”

They made it out in the nick of time with a fire tornado hundreds of feet high flanking them. Grateful to be alive and well, they believed the house was probably gone. The tornado was about 1,000 feet wide where it touched the ground and it burned up to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the  San Francisco Chronicle.

Until they came back to view the damage.

Carr Fire- Sherry Lalonde home

The arrow points to Sherry Lalonde’s home amidst the carnage

Their home was one of the few untouched. Why would the fire discriminate and leave a few homes while taking all the others?  Coincidence?  Happenstance?  Or a miracle?

Sherry Lalonde home

Their home – untouched – Picture courtesy of Sherry Lalonde

Sherry and ALan

Sherry Lalonde and Alan Ernesto Phillips

Sherry said, “I’m in shock at a miracle…all of our neighbors in Lake Keswick Estates have lost everything and we assumed we did too. Ours was one of the only homes left standing! This is bittersweet thinking of our neighbors.  Respect and love to the firefighters and sympathy for my poor neighbors.  How our home made it is a wonderful mystery. I hope to never see something like that again.”

They must replace broken windows (being blown out by the heat) and repair the smoke damage but are very thankful they still have a home in the midst of destruction all around. They are also glad they were able to save their cat.

As of August 15, 2018, the Carr Fire burned 214,527 acres and destroyed 1,077 residences, 22 commercial structures, 500 outbuildings. Many more structures were damaged, according to The base of the fire was over 1000 feet in diameter, winds 135-165 mph. Gases peaking over 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. It is still only 71% contained and has been burning over three weeks. 


Thank you to Sherry Lalonde for permission to share your story.

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Too Close for Comfort

“It felt like a huge boulder smashed me in the face,” he said.

Watching fireworks in the city park of Safety Harbor, FL, this 74-year-old man never expected the fireworks would come so close. But it wasn’t the kind of fireworks he thought. He was sitting in a lawn chair with his face toward the sky watching fireworks when it happened.

From somewhere in the crowd, a bullet fired into the air as the fireworks finale began. It came crashing down on Richard Smeraldo’s head. The Tampa Bay News reported: “It clipped through the bill of his hat, struck the bridge of his nose, exited his nostril and bored a path from his lower lip through the fleshy nub of his chin. Exiting his lower jaw, it struck his rectangular silver medallion necklace.”  The medallion was engraved only days before with his mother’s favorite Bible verse: “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed . . . nothing shall be impossible to you.”

“It’s sort of a miracle when you think about things like this,” he said at his Clearwater home Thursday. “It’s a brush with death, in a way. If my head was moved an inch …” said Smeraldo.

Smeraldo came through this experience with a new lease on life and appeared as if he had only taken a tumble. Although they investigated, the police never found who shot the bullet.

God still is in the miracle-working business. Thank God He watches out for us. He is good — all the time, and all the time, He is good. Keep trusting. Keep believing.

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Run Off the Road

The car came to a screeching halt when something smashed into it in the middle of the highway. They didn’t see it coming and were amazed when they found out what flew toward them.

Risner's totaled car

Courtesy of Pamela Risner

Jean and Pamela Risner and a couple of their friends decided to go to Silver Dollar City near Branson last December 29 to see the festive Christmas lights.  On their way south of Springfield,  they were jolted to a stop as something slammed into their car setting off all four airbags. They couldn’t believe their eyes when they found out it was a 24-foot bass boat which flew into their lane, hit their vehicle and ran them off the road.  Where did this huge boat come from, traveling 60+ mph through the air straight toward them? Continue reading

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God’s Unexpected Blessings

Does God know your need before you do? Will He meet that need before you even ask? According to Ben Lombardi, sometimes God’s blessings are a surprise.

Does God know your need?

car in rainIt was Christmas night. His car was full of gifts as he headed home from his parents’ place. It was raining and cold when his car suddenly decided to go out of control. Ben says “I was finally able to put it in neutral and slow down enough to park.” His cell phone died so he couldn’t call anyone for help. Then the police showed up. They asked if he was drinking and made him get out of the car. They suspected he had stolen it.

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Swept Away in a Flood

After surviving hurricanes in Florida, the couple moved to the Ozarks. They didn’t think about Missouri’s flash floods and tornados.

The water was rising fast. They made it to their car with their dogs, but when she stepped out, the current took her away. Deathly afraid of water, with her two dogs under each arm, her husband watched as the raging flood sucked his wife under. He attempted to help but the water was fierce, pulling and pinning him against a tractor. Their home and property were destroyed – but somehow, they lived through it. Yet this woman says she wasn’t fearful even when underwater because God spoke to her.

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“We are not settling for brain damage. God will heal our boy.”

truck wreck

They found Kenny lying on the side of the road while the ambulance loaded Andrew and the other driver who plowed head-on into their truck. They learned later the medical team first takes care of victims they think can survive. Stan went to pray for his son, who looked lifeless on the ground, and saw a big gaping hole in his forehead.

How was it that the doctors later only reported a small cut?

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The Boy with the Thick Tongue

God wasn’t through amazing us yet. It took fifty years before my dream of going to Africa came true. As a child of eight-years-old, a missionary ignited that fire in my heart.  Finally, after many years, I had the opportunity to go to Uganda to preach, help with construction and minister to children. That’s when I met Joshua.


Joshua – Courtesy of David Iverson



“That’s my brother Joshua,” she said. He’s eight years old; he doesn’t talk. We’ve never heard him talk.”


Meeting Joshua

Monday morning arrived, and our time of ministry completed. The team prepared last minute things while we waited for our buses to take us to the airport. As I sat outside the church building, I took a balloon from the last pack. I blew it up and began to tease a child sitting beside me. I had seen this child over the two weeks, thinking this was a girl wearing a filthy dress. Another girl sat beside her.

Unable to Speak

The girl sitting beside the child said, “That’s my brother Joshua. He’s eight years old and he doesn’t talk. We’ve never heard him talk.”

At that time, a native pastor passed by us and heard what she had said. He pointed at Joshua in agreement.  “He can’t talk, he’s got a thick tongue.”

I said to Joshua, “Joshua would you like to be able to talk?”WHen God gives you a dream

Looking up at me with his big brown eyes he simply nodded his head.

“Joshua, say ‘dear Jesus.’”

He opened his mouth in an attempt to speak but nothing came out. His tongue literally filled his mouth. It’s a wonder he had survived as long as he did, eating and breathing. I took my bottle of anointing oil and simply touched his forehead.

“Jesus, Joshua wants to talk, make him talk.”

Then a Miracle Happened…

I got out a few more balloons to blow up for the children. All of a sudden, many kids surrounded us to get one last balloon. I was busy blowing up balloons and then realized Joshua was now teasing me — hitting me with his balloon.

I smiled at him and said, “Joshua–say, ‘thank you, Jesus.’”

Then, a miracle happened for Joshua. For the first time in his eight years of life, he said as plain as day,

“Thank you, Jesus!”

His tongue was perfect and normal.
Just then our buses rolled in. There may have been almost 400 kids and adults there to see us off. They went ballistic as the Americans were leaving.

When we arrived at our destination, a coworker told me, “David, when I was getting on my bus, Joshua was standing at the door with all the other kids. He was still talking.”

Dream Fulfilled 

DavidI have wondered since — could it be that God gave me a dream and planted a seed in my heart as an eight-year-old boy to go to Africa?  Did He allow fifty years to pass just to be able to pray for healing for young eight-year-old Joshua? God only knows.

When God gives you a dream, hang on to it. It might take years—maybe fifty years, or maybe a lifetime– but never let it go.

You never know what God has planned for your life’s journey.


David W. Iverson lives with his wife, Sharon, in Phoenix, AZ. Now retired from active ministry, they operate the Extended Hands Food Bank.

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