After close call with wildfire at his Eagle project site, he got back to work

Jeremiah Armas holds his Eagle paperwork. The completed shed is behind him.

Perhaps it was simply luck that caused Jeremiah Armas’ Eagle project to get delayed by several months. Or maybe it was divine intervention.

Whatever the cause, a series of unusual obstacles (postponed work days, materials lost in transit and more) meant that Jeremiah hadn’t started work on his Eagle Scout service project when a wildfire demolished the church where he was planning to build a shed.

On Sept. 8, 2020, the Riverside Fire destroyed the Dodge Community Church in Estacada, Ore. Jeremiah had scheduled his first work day for Sept. 12 — just four days later.

After the blaze, Jeremiah felt angry and sad. Angry at whoever caused the fire and sad to lose the only church he had ever known. 

Wanting to do something, Jeremiah got back to work on his project.

“I felt like being able to build the shed would give a sign of hope to people,” he says. “I wanted to send a message that we are rebuilding.”

Jeremiah, now an 18-year-old Eagle Scout and former youth member of Troop 257 of Colton, Ore., part of the Cascade Pacific Council, completed his project in April 2021.

Construction on the church itself will begin as soon as the final approvals come in from the county. During the rebuilding, Jeremiah’s shed will serve as a place to store tools and supplies. Once the church is complete, the shed will hold the church lawnmower and other maintenance equipment.

The sign at the Dodge Community Church in Estacada, Ore., after the fire.

A close call

Before the wildfire, Jeremiah and his team of Scouts and adult volunteers had completed the first step of construction. They had mixed the cement and water for the concrete foundation. That concrete pad had cured and was ready to hold the shed’s weight.

Then came the fire.

Miraculously, the pad was stained black but not damaged. And the materials Jeremiah had collected for the shed itself were being stored at a Scout leader’s house and had not yet been moved to the church.

For Jeremiah, the fire was just the latest in a string of setbacks. He redesigned the shed multiple times, had some materials get delayed in transit and simply never received the trusses he ordered. On top of that, the pandemic added the responsibility of keeping project volunteers safe and healthy.

Those delays likely spared the shed from the fire.

“We look at it as kind of a miracle,” says Lena Armas, Jeremiah’s mom and Troop 257’s committee chair. “By all rights, the project should have been completed long before the fire.”

Jeremiah looks over the plans.

Faith, not a ‘fish tale’

When Lena tells this story to family friends, she has trouble explaining all the difficulties her son faced during this journey. 

“I think sometimes people feel we’re telling a ‘fish tale,’ but it really isn’t,” she says. “At times it felt like it would never be finished, but Jeremiah took the attitude that God had a plan, and it would be fine.”

As a result of these unforeseen circumstances, Lena worked with troop leaders and her local council to apply for and receive a three-month time extension for Jeremiah. He didn’t quite need that much extra time and ended up completing his Eagle project three days after his 18th birthday.

(“An unforeseen circumstance or life-changing event with severe consequences,” such as a natural disaster, is one of three requirements for an Eagle Scout Award time extension. For more information, see section 9.0.4.0 of the Guide to Advancement.)

Beyond that — and helping prepare food and drinks with Jeremiah’s Grandma Evelyn — Lena and her husband, Jeff, mostly just looked on with pride.

“After he started the project, I was amazed at how he adapted to taking a leadership position with his helpers — and all of the crazy circumstances that kept getting thrown at him,” Lena says. “He just kept saying it was going to be fine and he would get it finished.”

The finished shed.

Confidence, built in Scouting

There’s no shortage of advice on a job site. That’s a lesson Jeremiah will take with him from Scouting into his next chapter of life.

A leader carefully listens to this feedback, weighs its merits and proceeds in the manner that will best suit the team.

“I learned that everyone has an idea of how to build things and that I needed to stick to my plans and do what I thought was best,” Jeremiah says.

Where else but Scouting would a young person learn a lesson like that?

“I have learned so much through Scouting that a normal kid wouldn’t ever have had the opportunity to learn,” Jeremiah says.

Lena couldn’t agree more.

“It helps with communication skills, leading others, working together as a team,” she says. “Scouting helps to make them be better people.”

About Bryan Wendell 3200 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.