Kirby Holmes has always been concerned about wildfires.

As a child growing up in Houston, Holmes spent a few weeks each summer visiting his grandparents. They lived in the small city of Ojai, tucked into the foothills of Southern California, and even back then, wildfires were an issue. One summer, the wildfires reached the hills right behind his grandparents’ home.

“I had this sort of dreaded sense that my grandparents were going to be burned up in these fires and we were all going to die,” Holmes said. “I thought their dog, a black lab named Sugar, was going to die in these fires. So, it really scared me as a kid.”

He didn’t know it then, but that feeling would stay with him for decades. In 2017, wildfires again threatened the state.

“Some of the neighborhoods were being destroyed and people were losing their lives,” he said. “It brought back to me that fear I had when I was a kid, but it was actually now happening – it was being realized.”

Wildfire smoke rises over Ojai, California.

Holmes couldn’t do anything to save the homes, but he knew he could help the people and their pets. So, with his grandparents and Sugar in mind, he set out to do just that.

You see, Holmes ran a business selling air filter masks.

Inspiration strikes

He had gone into mission work in Russia after graduating from Texas Tech University in 1994, but by 2015, Holmes and his wife were back in Texas. On a random Friday night, he had an unexpected encounter that changed the trajectory of his career.

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