“... the altar of the Lord ... was in ruins,” (1 Kings 18:30)
The altar, of course, speaks of sacrifice, of self-denial. Contextually, God’s people, of the northern kingdom of Israel, had abandoned the worship of Yahweh, their God, and ‘indulged themselves’ in hedonistically inclined idolatry with the prophets of Baal and Asherah. The situation was desperate! The need of the hour was for a manifestation of a God who answered by fire.