A brief timeline of events leading up to and occurring in Pillars of Fire.
- An unprecedented heat wave strikes the Northern Hemisphere, leading to never-before-seen forest fires across Europe and North America (along with historic levels of smog), and triggers the subsequent Middle Eastern drought.
- The drought in the Euphrates in turns leads to a massive famine in the Levant area, precipitating a long period of suffering in the Middle East. Iraq descends into anarchy with its massive crop failures. Israel, through careful cultivation of genetically modified crops, barely manages to scrape through. The Group of 10 (G10) is formed to alleviate the famine in the Levant.
- General Mahmud Iskandar bin Sayyid, leading the Iraqi Revolutionary Party, seizes control of the Iraqi government, placing it under military control through a "transitional period". Mahmud's declaration of a secular constitution triggers consternation in the Amman Declaration (AHAD), but war is averted with a UN resolution deeming the act legal, but pressuring Iraq to conduct democratic elections within six months. The Iraqi Revolutionary Party (predictably) wins, capturing over 80% of the popular vote.
- Mahmud's cousin, Salah Hassim bin Sayyid, is discovered to be at the center of a heretic cult dedicated to the study and worship of the ancient Mesopotamian gods alongside Islam. Incredibly, Mahmud refuses to act against the cult, citing articles in the new Iraqi constitution guaranteeing religious freedom. Incensed, Syria leads an AHAD task force and surrounds the Iraqi border. Mahmud merely uses this as a pretext to tighten internal security.
- Puerto Rican riots: Puerto Rican ultra-nationalists, challenging the result of the final referendum regarding incorporation into the United States, stage a massive revolt in San Juan. While quickly suppressed by local authorities, nearly a hundred people are killed including Lieutenant Michael Carpenter of the Puerto Rico police, elder brother of Joan Carpenter.
- Puerto Rico is finally incorporated into the United States as the 51st state of the union, the conclusion of the successful "51 in '51" campaign.
- United States presidential election, 2052: Democratic Party candidate Jacob Fenshaw (formerly Featherstonhaugh) barely ekes out a victory over the Progressives and the Citizens, with Puerto Rico's electoral votes proving key to winning the election. Historians will look back on this election as "the death knell of the Democrats".
- A new virulent (and lethal) strain of cowpox transmits to human beings in Brazil before spreading northwards through Central America and Mexico onto the Southern and Midwestern United States, claiming nearly 3,000 lives before being contained.
- The 2054 midterm elections prove decisive, and the Democrats nearly lose their majority in Congress, with the Progressives emerging strongest between the other parties.
- An submarine volcanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean triggers a tsunami which strikes Hawaii, killing thousands, including almost the entire population of Kauai. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose reputation was nearly destroyed by its ineffective response to Hurricane Katrina, manages to vindicate itself through its rapid response and reconstruction efforts. Joan Carpenter has this as her first major deployment.
- President Fenshaw finds himself implicated in the Southwest Airlines scandal, which came under investigation over irregularities in its tax returns. Fenshaw denies accusations laid at his feet by Minority Leader David Scurr, who pushes for his impeachment. Although Congress firmly rejects the proposal, the general public's confidence in the Democrat-dominated government is irreversibly shaken.
- United States presidential election, 2056: In a re-aligning election, Progressive Party candidate James McCain Jr. is the first third-party candidate to unseat the Democrat's supremacy over the White House, defeating incumbent Vice-President Kathleen Kennedy by riding on a wave of popular support on the promise to "Make America Great Again."
- Three journalists known for investigating the sudden leak of unprovenanced papers connecting former president Fenshaw to the Southwest Airlines scandal are found dead. The investigation is silenced by the FBI.
- James McCain Jr. suddenly contracts botulism on a diplomatic tour in Puerto Rico, and passes away six months into his presidency. His Vice-President, David Scurr, is sworn in as President amid rumours of conspiracy.
- The famine in the Levant continues into its tenth year, and despite massive food imports, the Middle East continues to be unstable. Mahmud, renaming himself Marduk Iskandar and Iraq the Babylonian Empire, having consolidated his rule over the country, declares war on Syria and Israel and begins a "drive to the sea", with masses of tank battalions, assisted by overwhelming aerial support, rolling through Syria to assault Israel through the Golan Heights, triggering the Famine War.
- The Famine War grinds to a brutal stalemate in the Golan Heights, and Syrian forces conduct large-scale clandestine raids on Iraqi forces in Occupied Syria. The United Nations Interim Military Observer Group (UNIMOG) is dispatched to enforce an armistice between the two sides, and to escort Iraqi forces from Syria.
- Popular revolts in Iraq threaten to unseat the Marduk regime, and the Iraqi force is given a three-week deadline by UNIMOG to retreat to national borders. Marduk refuses to repent, and unveils a secret weapon: a wing of fighter-bombers carrying a payload of nearly five hundred chemical warheads, laden with VX and sulphur mustard gas. In their attack, codenamed Operation Shebu, only more than half of the bombs detonate, but the subsequent chemical poisoning contaminates the entire region, leaving barely 150,000 Israelis alive by the end of the year. Marduk is arrested by revolutionaries, but kills himself with a grenade before being successfully imprisoned.
- Prevailing winds carry the toxic fallout into the Mediterranean Sea, irreversibly poisoning the water. Populations in Southern and Eastern Europe begin to show symptoms of chemical poisoning even before the Marduk regime falls.
- John D'Israeli, a fundamentalist preacher, promulgates the Church of a Thousand Gross, declaring the end times as foretold in the Book of Revelation are nigh. Apocalyptic fervor strikes the United States, and it is estimated that the Church has over 100,000 adherents by the end of the year.
- It is estimated that nearly eleven million people in Europe and the Middle East are dead due to chemical poisoning. Among these is Pope Clement XV, having contracted it on a peace mission to Crete. As the papal conclave meets to decide on the next pope, a frenzied member of the Swiss Guard, Pietro D'Annunzio, massacres the cardinals and sets the Chapel alight, emerging on the roof and declaring himself to the prophesied "Peter the Roman", the final pope of the Catholic Church, before throwing himself off into the midst of a panicked crowd.
- 2010 JU39 enters the atmosphere over East Asia, breaking up into various smaller meteorites, which impact major cities in China, Korea, the Philippines, Indochina and Singapore. The death toll is in the tens of thousands.
- John D'Israeli declares the creation of the Army of God, an armed militia aligning to the principles of the Church of a Thousand Gross, who conduct hate crimes against those who speak out against the ways of the Church. He denounces David Scurr as the Beast of Revelation, citing various verses of Revelation as "evidence" of this.
- David Scurr is shot in the head with a high-powered air rifle. The pellet barely penetrates the skull bone, but the loss of blood leads to his near-incapacitation, although he is predicted to make a full recovery well before the New Year's Day celebrations.
- The Church of a Thousand Gross is declared to be a "homeland terrorist organisation" by the United States government. In response, John D'Israeli, calling himself John Patmos, orders the construction of a massive armed complex in Patmos, Arkansas. The National Guard is called in but is repelled when John Patmos reveals he has abducted Sylvia Scurr, the First Lady, and threatens to televise the tortures of the Whore of Babylon unless government troops retreat. A demilitarised zone is set up around Patmos.
- Operation Peach is put into action immediately by the Department of Homeland Security, with junior officer Joan Carpenter mobilised to investigate inroads to the fortress, now called New Zion.