"Mt. St. Helens Blows Its Top"
What You Need To Know:
Leinau reached out to God and received divine assistance. Intending to shoot footage to advance his photojournalist career, he testifies of renewed faith and hope in God. The purpose of the documentary is to dispel the naïve attitude that volcanoes are just smoke, and to warn both residents of threatened cities and distant observers alike of the threat of volcanic eruption in certain Northwest USA communities including Seattle, which lies near Mt. Rainier. With uplifting faith, Leinau concludes with Psalm 46:2, “So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken, and the mountains fall into the ocean depths.
(B, CCC, M) Moral, Christian worldview of interviews with actual Mt. St. Helens’s survivors, with intermittent Scripture verses added; some intense re-enactment scenes & photos of burned hand & scenes of burn victims rehabilitation
1997 is the year for volcano movies. In February, Universal released its volcano thriller, DANTE’S PEAK, which purports to chronicle the story of fictitious Washington state townsfolk as they battle the eruption of a nearby volcano. This summer, another studio is releasing VOLCANO, yet a second volcano thriller. These movies deal with the theme of man against nature, which can elicit both heroism and cowardice, as men and women confront superhuman obstacles in their struggle to survive extraordinary calamity.
Of course, in Hollywood’s usually contrived story lines, the danger builds in consecutive stages with thrills interjected at regular intervals. Nature is not so predictable. THE FIRE BELOW US documents the actual sequences of events before and after God’s Real Big Show: the volcanic eruption of Washington’s Mt. St. Helens on May 18th, 1980. It includes a stirring story of conversion to Jesus Christ of the film’s cinematographer as he faces death on the slopes of the mountain as he and his crew confront an unexpected second eruption while filming the devastation of Mt. St. Helen’s blast zone.
In an eerie parallel with the fictional drama, the threat of natural violence in the real story increased in succeeding stages during the early Spring of 1980, beginning with an earthquake warning in March, steam geysers in April and the actual earthquake on May 18th. In marked contrast to Universal’s DANTE’S PEAK, where scientific goofballs discount the impending danger, THE FIRE BELOW US documents the admirable precautions adopted by the National Forest Service and Washington’s Governor, who declared a state of emergency on April 3rd, 1980.
In real life, responsible government officials take justifiable and prudent steps to avert potential loss of life from a natural disaster. In this case, the state cordoned off a radius of ten miles around the smoking summit of Mt. St. Helens, declaring it to be off limits to the public. Like some of the inhabitants of DANTE’S PEAK, the feisty loggers of Mt. St. Helens demanded that they be allowed to continue working, and angry cabin owners demanded that troopers open up the roads so they could return to their cabins to retrieve their belongings.
God displayed His mercy when the eruption happened on Sunday morning. As host Grant Goodeve recounts, had the eruption occurred on Monday, 1000 loggers would have been working in the blast zone. As it was, only about 60 people died in the blast, which could have killed thousands had it happened a day earlier, or a day later. The documentary goes on to tell the stories of four groups of people who confronted the eruption inside the danger zone: loggers, fishermen, Forest Service workers, and Michael Leinau’s camera crew. In the very midst of his impossible predicament, Leinau reached out to God and received divine assistance in the nick of time. Intending to shoot footage to advance his photojournalist career, he testifies that he emerged from the experience with renewed faith and hope in God.
Because so few people have experienced the astonishing power of a volcanic blast, viewers may be tempted to belittle the danger posed by a volcano, relegating the cataclysm to a distant, but harmless puff of smoke. The purpose of this documentary is to dispel such a naïve attitude and to warn both residents of threatened cities and distant observers alike of the threat of volcanic eruption in certain Northwest USA communities, including Seattle, which lies near Mt. Rainier. With uplifting faith, Leinau concludes with Psalm 46:2, “So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken, and the mountains fall into the ocean depths.”