In the beginning of December I woke up to the hot howling winds and a feeling of worry and terror in my body. I knew something might be wrong. I then turned on the news and saw that a wildfire had broken out not too far away from me and my horse.
The first thought that came into my mind was, “Is Shorty okay?” Shorty is my horse and my best friend. If anything happened to him I wouldn’t know what to do. I leaped out of bed and furiously raced over to the barn where Shorty lives.
Fortunately the fire was nowhere near. That was not the case for hundreds of people. Last year, California faced one of its worst wildfires, The Thomas Fire, which burned nearly 273,400 acres across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Nearly 1,000 structures were destroyed by the fire that left many people without homes.
I applied The 4-Way Test of Things We Think Say or Do when making my decision to do all I could to help.
It was the truth that many horses were in danger through the Thomas Fires. To get to safety many people had to leave their horse behind to fend for themselves during the fires. It was also true that I could do something about it. I was one of the several people who owned a horse trailer and lived in the area who was willing to drive all the way up there to help.
As a leader working through the Ventura County Animal Rescue Services, I assisted in saving and evacuating horses through the fires and transporting them to safe places away from danger. It was the truth that I was glad to help get horses to safety because I know how I’d feel if Shorty and I were in the same situation.
Being fair to all concerned also drove me on. Knowing how much my horse means to me, I knew if I did not go to rescue the horses that it wasn’t fair to those who were panicked about their animals threatened by the fires. It was right for me to go save those peoples horses just like I would want them to do for me. A horse community is like a family; everyone would do everything they could to help one another. I thought about how much those people worried and I knew that a lot of them lost their homes along with all of their belongings to Mother Nature in the Santa Barbara areas.
During the fires, my assistance definitely built goodwill and better friendships. It was quite challenging to get past the roads that were closed and guarded by the police who were keeping anyone from passing due to unsafe road conditions. Fires were roaring on each side of the roads and power lines were down on the ground making it very threatening to the life of whomever passed.
As my friend and I were trying to think of a way to get past the roadblock another man with a trailer approached. His name was Cody and he was young like us and trying to do a good deed as well. This guy lived and had many friends that were on the other side of the road block, which helped us out a lot since he knew all the backroads and shortcuts in the city. A friendship was made out of this disaster and made us close because we worked together during a time like this.
Finally, what we did was beneficial to all concerned as we did everything in our power that we could to save their horses.
This whole experience made an impact on me and changed my life for the better. It solidified my interest in becoming a firefighter, and I have chosen it as my life’s path. Hundreds if not thousands of other people helped those affected by the Thomas Fire. Working together each person contributed every way that they could during this disaster. I am very proud to have been a part of rescuing the horses from Ojai.
The 4-Way Test is very useful in everyday life, but it also made me understand how to operate during an emergency and keep matters calm with everyone in the community that I helped.
I definitely recommend others apply The 4-Way Test whenever they have a difficult decision to make in their lives.
Fuller is a senior at Oak View High School in Oak Park. His essay, reprinted here, was one of the top in the competition.