Guest Article: Lessons Learned From The Pioneer Fire 2016, by Tanker Jack

This all happened within our first month into our relocation to the Redoubt. To start off correctly, we must give you a little background on our family. I was a retired Army tanker ( for 20 years), then in 2009 we started our next career as a government employee with Corp of Engineers and the Navy. Chasing promotions had us moving every two years, taking several jobs with the purpose of climbing the corporate ladder as fast as possible. Then the “come to Jesus” moment” that turned us into the preppers we are today happened. The Kentucky ice storm of 2007– a 8 to 10 inch ice storm– hit us outside of Louisville. This storm left over 50% of the state without power for two weeks in 5 degree weather. That event made me feel helpless as the provider of our family and woke me up as a Christian/man, and we started to pray. A good friend pointed me to SurvivalBlog and the novel Patriots. After that, we were off to the races. I decided to do an AAR “after action review” to see what we did right/wrong, mostly wrong. The main thing we learned was that you cannot just buy a bunch of gear and think you’re good. Knowing your gear’s purpose and practicing with it is invaluable. Trying to find missing parts to your brand new kerosene heater in the dark while freezing is not the way to go.

We then moved to Nebraska and learned a brand new set of skills, but one of the most important ones was over-confidence. Within three months of moving to Omaha, we were hit with a record snow storm that lasted off/on for four months. We had no power loss, but food issues, emergency gear/bag for the truck, and medical preps were way under thought. One important lesson the Lord taught us was through a situation where the main highway into Omaha froze over and two 18-wheelers crashed, resulting in the morning commuters all being stuck for over seven hours in freezing conditions. We learned that always having at least half a tank of fuel, blankets, and food are a must, and some extra never hurts. By the end of the day I had three families crammed into my super cab, due to them running out of gas. We sang hymns, ate their school lunches, and made friends for life.

The next move was Oklahoma, and our next lesson was that no matter how well you think you are covered nature can change everything on a dime. Tornados hit hard. Sometimes they miss your home and destroy your neighbor’s house, and sometimes they don’t. We had a good basic plan for prepping supplies. With our past experiences, we felt comfortable, but we were very wrong. A tornado wrecked our neighborhood. The Lord blessed us with only minor damage, but several of our friends were not so lucky. The lesson was that if you plan to help others you need to triple your food storage, because we had a 6-month supply that just lasted a little over two weeks with us helping others. It woke me up to charity as the Christian thing to do, but your first responsibility is always your family, always. The speed of word of mouth is amazing. Once we helped someone, everyone was knocking on our door for food, all within one day. If this would have been a long-term disaster, we would not have survived. “Loose lips sink ships.”

Then came the big move to Guam– the once in a lifetime promotion I thought was my heart’s desire. How wrong I was. The Lord answers prayers to teach us lessons I truly believe, and this was a hard one for me. The position came with the prestige and responsibilities I thought I truly wanted. It was the chance to be the decision maker for a large chunk of the Pacific. This time the Lord showed us (me especially) not with natural disasters but the dangers of greed or putting your career first over your family’s health. The stress of the job not only effected my health but my wife’s even more. Worrying about me ended up putting her on a whopping seven prescriptions, and then the big scare– a heart attack. I was protected by the Lord and was lucky to have no damage. It was just a mild one, but it was a huge wake up. To see her suffer for my greed just about killed me. I finally just listened to what the Holy Spirit was saying to me all along; we needed to find a place to settle down, a place we would be happy, so we prayed and the Lord answered.

We also learned the Devil loves to throw wrenches into your plans. The way I look at it is if you start having obstacles being tossed in your way, it shows you’re on the right path. After the medical scares and her failing health, I was determined to fix the damage I have caused my family and started applying for positions. I was blessed to receive several offers, but they were all just like they ones I took in the past; they were based off money/promotion and not family. The only thing I was interested in was a job/any job in the Redoubt. Then the big test. We were offered my dream job– a big promotion to move to D.C, an increase of over 50K. It was the position I had been working for since 2009. I have never been so tempted in my life, not only the money but the power as well. I sat down with my wife, but as we were talking she was taking her medicine and that was all I needed to say “no”. We trusted the Lord and turned down the position, then everyone said we were crazy. However, we just laughed and felt better than we had in ages. We prayed some more and asked for help, and then the Lord provided and we were offered a job in central Idaho. The position had some problems, like it came with a $34K loss in salary, but we smiled and accepted the position so fast they didn’t even get to say their whole speech. The move so far has been the best thing ever to happen to us. My wife’s new doc took away two prescriptions, and she was downgraded to a junior diabetic with no medicine needed. Then another unexpected benefit was me shifting from being an information junkie, who used to need 24-hr news TV to so far not even having hooked up our TV, and I do not miss it at all.

Then after being in Idaho a month, the pioneer fire happened. A new opportunity to learn presented itself. The lesson started with our transportation/household goods from Guam getting lost somewhere in China. This included all our long-term food storage, solar power generator, and a bunch of items that would have been handy. We only had our two suitcases and some Costco items to set up our new home, which wasn’t much. We just got back from the doctor in Boise, and POW, we were being evacuated and unable to return home. The prepping lifestyle that the Lord has ingrained in us took over. We grabbed a bargain tent and bargain sleeping bags from Cabelas and then some freeze-dried camping food and headed to the nearest campground. With us being so new to the area, we haven’t established a circle of friend we could ask for help, so we were on our own. The biggest benefit was knowing different styles of equipment and what we needed vs wanted. That alone proved that training and understanding your gear is so much more valuable then tons of expensive gear.

The most important thing that helped was knowing the Lord wanted us here and would provide for us as long as we did our part. It seemed everyone else was freaking out and running around. People who have been through this before seemed to never learn and just like to blame others and wait for the government to come and save them. We learned a long time ago that just smiling and keeping our positive attitude works wonders, and being together as a team and depending on each other knowing we have been through much worse emergencies gave us the confidence to figure this one out, even though we really was winging it. The second important thing we learned was sometimes you cannot make it back to your supplies. We had to act fast and get the items we needed before the horde bought out everything. This situation was not that bad, but we used a training scenario of an earthquake /EMP attack and acted accordingly. So know we are working on having a backup site with preps, be it at a friend’s house or a storage locker, et cetera. It’s important not to have all your eggs in one basket. Also, you can turn any instance into a training one, like if you lose power for a couple of hours. Use that to practice a much worse situation and war game it and learn.

Always be adaptable and learn from your environment. If you can do that and with the Lord having your back, you can accomplish/survive anything.