Trial By Fire

By: Major Frank Duracher

Jamie Bradley is no hero — at least she does not think so. But to a family in the southern part of North Carolina’s Beaufort County, she certainly is.

Jamie, a regular volunteer and soldier of the Greenville Corps in nearby Pitt County, was visiting her brother at his home on the banks of Blounts Creek, a tributary of the Tar River. Despite an uncle’s funeral earlier that day, it was a pleasant December evening, and her family was spending time around a bonfire they had built near the water.

“That’s when we heard a woman screaming for help two houses down,” Jamie said. “I don’t know what I was thinking, but the next thing I knew I was running towards the screaming mother only to see her house engulfed in flames.”

Jamie’s focus instantly went to the five year-old boy standing near the house. She grabbed the toddler, and took the boy to safety back to her brother’s yard and ran back to the burning house.

The woman was now screaming for her father to come away from the house, which he was vainly attempting to douse with a mere water hose.

“By then, the flames were rolling and there was no way he could contain it,” said Jamie. “He was so close to the flames; it was frightening. I just grabbed the hose from his hand and pulled him back as the roof began to collapse.”

A few seconds later, and the family patriarch would have been killed.

But another immediate concern was for a propane tank next to the quickly-burning house. It turns out the tank did not explode, but the only family possession to survive the tragedy was their car.

When the adrenaline began to subside, Jamie was in tears when she phoned her corps officer, Major Connie Morris — as well as the officers at the Washington (NC) Corps, Captains Karl & Teresa Bush. Captain Karl arrived at the scene about the time the fire department arrived. He arranged several nights lodging at a motel and vouchers for the family to the Army’s Family Store for clothing, shoes, and other personal items.

“Captain Teresa made sure the family was taken care of for Christmas,” Jamie adds.

Fire department inspectors determined the blaze started with a short in a little snowman decoration. The spark was fed by rotting wood in the walls, and within moments the house was ablaze.

In the days that followed, Jamie reached out to her Facebook friends, who in turn responded with unbelievable generosity: gift cards, groceries, and cash donations.

“Like I said, I don’t know what got into me,” Jamie marvels. “I think it was a mother’s horrified screams that made my adrenalin kick in. I’d like to think that someone would rush to save my children and my family if it ever happened to me.”

But there is more to it than that.

The following Sunday, Major Connie so happened to be preaching on a Christian’s inner strength in times of crisis.

“It hit me that God had me there for that moment, and that He enables us to reach out to others beyond our own capacity,” Jamie said. “Coming to the aid of others in need is an extension of our Christian journey.”

And the irony is not lost on our Salvationist-hero, as she later told her brother, “We were out there around a bonfire that we built for fun; and we end up helping a desperate family who lost everything in an inferno just yards away!”

God is in control, she concludes.