By Norris Burkes

Nov 1 2019

Not far above Sacramento, at 1,500 feet, on the border that divides the towns of Grass Valley and Auburn, I’m sitting in the dark.

This a different kind of darkness than that implied by some readers who think I’m often in the dark. This is a planned “public safety power shutoff” (PSPS) – among the first of many – instigated by our local power company to mitigate California fire danger in windstorms.

I’m still not sure why someone thought it’d be a good idea to recommend a gas-powered generator to someone as hapless as me. Nor am I really sure how filling my house with extension cords will help prevent fires, but I’ve bought into it – even driving 100 miles to buy the generator.

If you don’t live here, you should know that it rarely rains in the summer months. So with our humidity in the teens and wind gusting more than 45 mph in places, cutting power may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.

Fortunately, we feel safer in a community that implements “fire-wise” practices in spite of living with a few inconveniences like my jammed electric recliner and no TV to watch.

Yet despite those annoyances, my wife, Becky, and I are doing OK. We have the portable generator, a woodstove, gas water heater, just enough battery to write this column and Internet access to file it with editors.

Some of my neighbors have it much worse. Many homes are all-electric while residents face nighttime temperatures in the 30s and 40s. They can’t cook or enjoy the comfort of a hot shower.

Even worse, some folks have wells that depend on electric pumps. And on properties with livestock, ranchers scurry ahead of the power outage to fill water troughs. Sadder still, some don’t have normal sewer service because they live on inclines where the sewer depends on electric pumps.

All of this “inconvenience” can turn tragic when it’s saddled on the elderly or disabled needing medical devices like oxygen and electric wheelchairs, beds or CPAP machines.

But compared to the thousands who are evacuating as fire licks their neighborhoods, we are dealing with minor setbacks. Our community is still thriving, finding hope even in the darkness.

Becky offered our shower and stove to neighbors. We shared our generator with neighbors, Todd and Laius, for their backyard wedding. Fifty people enjoyed the communal glow of lights and good food, and I performed the ceremony.

Meanwhile, our hospice offices light up thanks to a generator and busy staff. Our nurses and team work hard driving to patient homes to deliver a caring touch that brings light into the darkest of days.

At church, we scooch our chairs up tight in our lobby where we enjoy the light coming freely through the big windows. A generator runs our keyboard, and pastor Mike Bivens delivers encouraging words.

We pay close attention to him since we are fortunate that he’s present at all. Immediately after church, he swings into full gear as Director of the Disaster Relief Ministry for the California Baptist Convention.

We expect things to return to normal when the wind dies down and the fall rain shows up. In the meantime, we pray the Serenity Prayer, working to help others and change the things we can.

And like farmers though the centuries we follow the biblical advice from James 5:7: “Be patient, then, brothers…. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.”


100 percent of the Donations given to Disaster Relief Ministry for the California Baptist Convention will go to fire victims. Visit, scroll down to bottom of page to see the video and donate. Or write checks to: “Disaster Relief Ministry,” California Southern Baptist Convention, 678 East Shaw Ave., Fresno, CA 93710.