Survival Tip #2: Gain Situational Awareness

Survival Tip #2: Gain Situational Awareness

Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
–1 Peter 5:8

In the early hours of June 30, 2013, forty-three-year-old Eric Marsh, superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, walked into the ready room at fire station number 7 in Prescott, Arizona. On the wall was a poster with devastating pictures of wildfire fatalities, in which skilled firefighters had been caught off-guard by small fires that escalated unexpectedly. The poster asked: “How is your situational awareness today?” By 5:40 most of Marsh’s crew had gathered. “We’ve got an assignment to Yarnell,” Marsh said. “It’s 300 acres and burning on a ridgetop in thick chaparral. It’s going to be hot–real hot.” Marsh and his crew of wildland firefighters–his kids, as he referred to them–loaded up and headed to the fire line, where they got to work. Then as the wind shifted, the crew had to retreat. They reached the black, an island of ash where the fire had already burned the day before. It was the safest possible place they could be. Meanwhile, the fire raced toward the town of Yarnell, threatening homes and ranches. Marsh decided to leave the safety of the black in hopes of saving some of the homes. “He couldn’t have imagined that, by heading for town, he was leading his crew toward a series of increasingly compromised circumstances, each more desperate than the last,” a reporter wrote. As the firefighters hiked down the mountain, the flames became obscured by a ridge. Without eyes on the fire, the crew descended another five hundred feet and found themselves in a basin, walled in on three sides by granite boulders. Then the worst happened. Through the smoke, Marsh saw the fire ripping over the ridge. They were trapped. Marsh and the eighteen men with him died in that basin–the most professional wildland firefighters ever killed in a single incident. After the fire, Marty Cole, the safety officer on duty, stood among the charred bodies of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. “What were they doing here?” he wondered. Marsh was too good of a wildland firefighter to have led his men into this situation–but he did.

You and I may never face a raging wildland brushfire like Marsh and his men did that day. But nevertheless, it seems like we are surrounded on every side by fires that are threatening to destroy us. From one direction we have the fires of culture that threaten to consume everything we hold dear in our faith. From another direction, we have the fire of Satan’s temptations. In another direction we face challenging circumstances in our family, in our work, and in the world in which we live. And if that were not enough, from another direction come attacks from our very own sin nature that wants to pull us away from God. How can we survive? Last week, we began looking at ten tips for surviving and thriving in the hostile environment in which we live. First, don’t panic! As God told Joshua in Joshua 1:6, “Be strong and courageous.” The second survival tip is this: gain situational awareness. The haunting question that loomed over Marsh in that ready room is not only a question for first responders; it is a question that all of us need to ask. How is your situational awareness?

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Survival Tip #2: Gain Situational Awareness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2019.

Kyle Dickman, “19: The True Story Of The Yarnell Hill Fire,” Outside, September 17, 2013,

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.