The videos & images that I received in the middle of the night early Monday morning were heartbreaking. The massive flames devouring the large old oaks and pines were no joke. And it was clear that there would be no way that our coffee plants or at least not much of them would survive this fire. Especially since we’re near the end of the dry season where all of southern Honduras is a tinderbox just waiting for a tiny spark to ignite.
Our farm sits on about 350 acres of land in the La Botija forest preserve in southern Honduras. This forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the biodiversity on the mountain. It’s an amazing place but extremely isolated. Our farm is an important source of employment, in particular for women, on this mountain.
On the opposite edge of the property from our operations center is a pond. It’s about 500 feet lower in elevation than where our coffee grows and where our operations are located. And due to its position on the property, away from everything, the pond is used by kids frequently for fishing and swimming. It appears that this was the case Sunday afternoon and at some point they started a fire, how or what it was for is unknown at this point. It was this fire that we believe got out of control.
The dry forest quickly started to burn and the fire spread across the property, headed for our operations center and the coffee plants themselves. Some thirty men, from neighboring farms, joined our employees to battle the blaze until around three in the morning when they had done all that they could do. They did not have the benefit of machinery or water tanks. They did it all with machetes, rakes, and shovels. Clearing paths and starting back fires that would burn into the main fire, eliminating any fuel that the fire would need to continue to spread and therefore it would burn itself out. For a fire of this size it was unlikely that they would be able to contain it, much less control it completely. The fire breaks that our employees clear every year around the coffee in production are helpful for grass fires but are hardly a defense for flames that are devouring pine trees that are 40 feet tall. And as you can see in the picture below the fire jumped the road on the farm with ease.
It was late Monday afternoon when I finally got word on the damage and the current situation at the farm. Approximately 1/3 of our entire property burned.
We thank God that not a single person was injured, not a single structure was lost, and all of our coffee was spared. It was literally as if there was a wall around our coffee, the fire came right to the edge of the fields and didn’t cross over. Nor did the old tress that shade our coffee get burned. We don’t have an explanation, other than God protected this business that is doing so much to transform lives now, and for eternity, on this mountain.
Coffee trees in our region bloom once a year, in mid to late April. For only about 24 hours the mountain looks almost as if it has snowed and then quickly it starts to go away. And almost like a sign from God, the bloom started on much of our farm yesterday. These coffee plants remind me of how God can make all things new, as it says in Jeremiah 33:11 “For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord.”
I was sent this picture at 2 am, this sign is at the entrance to the property.
This is the same sign from yesterday afternoon, after the fire was out.
And this is the view of the coffee that sits just beyond this sign. Completely untouched.
And this is the view of the coffee that sits just beyond this sign. Completely untouched.We are very thankful to God for what we consider his miraculous intervention in saving this farm. And we thank you for your prayers for our employees and our leadership who’re dealing with a great deal of stress already amid the Honduras state of emergency situaton.