How my Brother and I Started a Forest Fire

Living Surrounded by the Forest

We lived on a country farm that was forested and the farm house was in quite a large clearing that some day would become housing developments. I think that we lived on about 10 acres or so and that our closest neighbor was our uncle who had about 100 acres or so that he raised cattle on. Our grandparents lived next to the uncle on about 5 acres and then there were two neighbors each on 5 or ten acres. That was the whole neighborhood. We had trails through the woods to each of these locations and a bunch of other ones, too.


The forest was our playground. It was filled with wonderful things like huckleberry, salmon berry, blackberry, and salal. There were stumps of such magnitude that they must have been old growth trees harvested a hundred years before. There were many maple and alder lining the creek banks and lots of willow on the edge of the creek bed and the forest was mainly fir, spruce, and cedar. This was an elegant mix of forest growth and provided a jungle gym for us to play on and a canopy for hot weather or shelter in the rain.


The Idea Man

Nothing feels better than mud squeezing up between the toes on a hot day. And the thrill of jumping from tree to tree by swaying them back and forth was a fine way to spend the afternoon. The situation was idyllic. We would play for hours under the deep salal that grew to massive heights under the trees where we labeled them the deep bushes.

I have a sister though who is an idea person, and a do it kind of gal, too. She always came up with the ideas and they were always pretty good. We were just little guys, I was about 9 or 10 years old and my brother is 17 months older. Anyway, my sister, Linda was older, she must have been about 15 years old at that time. She was smart as hell and always had the ideas, plans, and adventures to get us all whipped and sent us to bed with no dinner.


The Fire Ring Potato Baker

So, for entertainment, we all went out into the middle of the forest.  Linda had made a clearing where she had put together a fire ring and regularly went out there and practiced her arson: baking potatoes in the coals. Boy were those potatoes good, even if they had blackened outsides and raw parts on the inside. It was just fun. Where we got the potatoes is another story.

What fun it was to have our own little fire in the middle of the forest and cooking those potatoes. Did you know that you can bake potatoes on a stick, too? That was great fun if there was time. You could hold the potato over the fire and rotate it from time to time. Sometimes the potato would fall in the fire and turn completely black but you could still eat it by pulling it out of the fire and cutting it open. The outside might be black, but the inside was white and steamy. There were plenty of times that they came out just right and the whole time we waited, we had the fire to play with.


Illegal Adventure

This was just one of the wonderful and illegal adventures my sister Linda led us on. She was quite a wonderful sister and provided us with untold adventures. This one though is one that I suspect we would have been better off without.

The reason I say this is because it may not be such a good idea to teach a couple of young boys how to build a fire. We would have been much better off not knowing such. Too late.


How to build a good Fire

Since Linda was a teenager, she had other pursuits and we were left to entertain ourselves. So my brother and I decided to go play in the forest and of course we ended up at the fire site hidden deep in the woods. We were stupid though because we forgot the potatoes. But we did have matches.

We didn't know if we could start a fire but we decided to try anyway. We had no paper and no kindling and no tools, but we did have desire and will. We collected together some dried pine needles, pine cones, and bits of moss. You will find that this combination is astoundingly good for starting fires. It was lit with only one match.

We sure felt proud of ourselves as we scrambled for twigs and small sticks to add to the fire. We eventually added larger sticks and soon had a fire going to be envied by the most ardent arsonist. Boy was that fun. We played with that fire for several hours.

Don't Put a Fire out this Way.

As it was getting late, we decided that we should go. It was time to put the fire out. That part of the lesson was a little foggy. We pulled together a couple of logs that were there and threw some other stuff on the fire until it seemed like it was out. Then we went home.


It wasn't long after that when I heard my mother screaming, “There's a forest fire!” “Oh my God, the forest is on fire.”


Firefighting Equipment Rolled In

My brother and I looked at one another wide eyed. We skedaddled out of there as fast as we could. We watched as the fire crews came and brought firetrucks and tankers and ran a pumping hose to our little creek. The firefighting equipment rolled in.


We were terrified. The smoke was billowing out of our little part of the forest. We knew we were in trouble like never before. Fortunately, the smoke and fire was not as bad as it could have been and they quickly had it under control. But there was no mistaking that this was going to be serious trouble.


The Fire Marshal

My mother was in the yard talking animatedly to the fire marshal. She gestured toward us. And we had to go face the music. The fire marshal told us that the fire was the result of an unattended camp fire. We immediately both told the truth, that it was us. He was very stern and told my mother he was not sure what action that he would take but two little boys could end up in jail. Of course, we obliged by crying out eyes out and begging for mercy.


Mercy

Mercy was granted this one time and we walked away with no jail time. But let me tell you this, I have never left a fire pit that wasn't perfectly cold again in my lifetime. I carry a bucket and shovel and douse every campfire I have before I leave.


Another thing that I learned that day was to try to understand how my sister Linda did all these adventures without getting into trouble. You have to be careful. You have to think about what you are doing, and if it is crime, you really need to think it through.

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Comments 19 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

I dunno, Steve, they say once a pyromaniac, always a ... But I guess you learned your lesson and avoided a criminal record. Curious - did you and your brother ever "rat" on your sister?


SteveoMc profile image

SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest Author

drbj Don't I know it? I don't remember if we ratted on her or not.....I know the whole family knows it....we probably did. Lousy brothers.


ross670daw profile image

ross670daw 6 years ago

SteveoMc, I can remember getting up to similar mischief when I was a little tacker as well, just love camping and camp fires, fortunately I stopped playing with matches before I could cause any real damage. Living in a dry arid country like I do, with our summers of intense and destructive fires, some which are 'deliberately lit', around here arsonists are treated with much disdain and dealt with very harshly. So, when lighting camp fires we must stick to enforced fire restrictions, in summer, this is a Total fire ban. We are still able to enjoy camping, but, as you say we too, are very aware of the consequences of a fire which is not doused completely.


SteveoMc profile image

SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest Author

Thanks for the comments ross.....you better believe it, douse that fire....I do not want to re-live that situation.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

We lived out in the country, too. It was long enough ago that we burned our trash, in the trash-burning pit, on a sort of desolate part of the fifty or so acres we had. One time my brother Danny had trash-burning duty (he might have been 8 or 9), and he got fascinated with trying to catch a rabbit. He left the fire unattended; forgot all about it, and before you know it, we had a grass fire of no mean proportions. The wind had kicked up a little bit and blew some lit paper onto the grass. We were thrilled!!! The firetrucks were LOVELY!

The parents weren't thrilled at all, though. They were real party poopers!

Great hub, takes me back. Loved it.


SteveoMc profile image

SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest Author

Paradise7 thanks for reading and sharing your story. Parents can be such party poopers!


Tkumah profile image

Tkumah 6 years ago

Those potatoes sure ring a bell, yum.

To my opinion that law officer should had given you a course in camp fire safety and made you lecture in class about it until anyone can understand it.

Fear is good but other then inducing guilt and trauma, shame is useless.

I found it hard to believe that you did not put the fire out the best you knew how:)


SteveoMc profile image

SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest Author

Tkumah Good points, but I just told it as I remember it. We were pretty stupid I guess, but I guess we thought that if we threw a bunch of stuff on it, it would put the fire out. Thanks for your comments.


ultimatepotential profile image

ultimatepotential 6 years ago from India

Really interesting!


Road Trip Amy profile image

Road Trip Amy 6 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

I absolutely loved this story, from beginning to end. Thanks for sharing it!


SteveoMc profile image

SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest Author

Road Trip Amy Thanks for reading this, I think you will like my next one too.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 6 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

An incredible story, and I am glad you lived through your childhood, with lots of interesting items to share...Remember Smokey, I bet you did/do...


SteveoMc profile image

SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest Author

Hi LillyGrillzit thanks for visiting all my hubs, I appreciate it. I do remember Smokey, but I grew up in Alaska, so I can't relate to a bear as anything but a meat eater. LOL


attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 6 years ago from Australia

A good story that all young people should pay heed to. We used to celebrate Guy Faulks night, if i've spelt it right. We thought our fire was out but in the night it flared up and burnt our neighbors tool shed down to the ground the same neighbor who used to put a knife into our Soccer balls, if they went into his garden. Have a guess how we felt?


SteveoMc profile image

SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest Author

attempted humour OMG, I hate the ugly neighbor that you accidentally injure. I had a neighbor that did not want you to step on his property. He watched carefully and would come out and yell at us. We had to move a washing machine right by his truck and it fell off and hit the truck (brand new) and made a 6 inch scratch down to the metal. That was awful.


danatheteacher profile image

danatheteacher 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

I had a neighbor like that too Steve. If me and my friends got within 6 feet of his property, he chased us away with a rake. Ha!


SteveoMc profile image

SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest Author

If you were a little older I would swear that you were that neighbor kid that we had to chase away all the time. But then again we used a pitch fork. Ever so much more efficient.


PaulStaley1 profile image

PaulStaley1 5 years ago from With the wind---(or against it)

I grew up in the woods of Maine lighting pine needles on fire--I would dig fire line around the needles and pretend villages were burning down. Now I'm out west fighting real fires---nice hub voted up!


ray 4 years ago

cool story man. and yes, you are very correct at the end. THINK THINGS THROUGH, ESPECIALLY CRIME!

^ I live by this now, every crime I have done or any shady thing I think it through to the full extent and the possible outcomes. If I would of done this as a kid my life would be completely different.

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