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Engulfed in Flames? Some Things to Avoid if You're Burning

Updated on September 14, 2014

Hey! Don't be this guy!

If this should occur...

There are certain incidences in life we all try to avoid. Nobody wants to get run over by a rampaging circus elephant, but that doesn’t mean it’s never happened, nor does it mean it will never happen again. As long as the circuses continue treating their animals the way they do, rampages will continue well into the unforeseeable future. Nobody wants to be struck in the head by a chunk of frozen urine falling from a passing aircraft, either, and nobody (to my knowledge) ever did desire such a thing. But that does not mean it has never happened and it doesn’t mean it won’t happen again in the future. If we were equipped with a sense allowing us to foresee and then avoid such occurrences, we would be better off, but even the finest psychics say things just don’t work that way. If they did, those with the abilities would be afforded rock star status.

So, we must learn to endure these episodes as they occur and with the aplomb higher thought affords a civilized being. We see occasions when people exhibit panache during a severe situation, such as the man who rescues several children from a burning building, or the mother who single-handedly overturns a car to save her children. We’ve seen people commit tremendous acts of heroism on the part of a plighted horse caught in a flooded gorge; for reasons perhaps leading back to prehistory, we can achieve our best most often when things are worst. Alas, we can be at our worst when things are at their best, which is likely why the rate of employee turnover in the Hospitality Industry always exceeds 100%. But that is another matter.

One of the innumerable incidences that can affect people from all walks of life is the possibility of being set on fire. Unless one works in a circus or a freak show, this incident is often considered less than desirable. Of course, there are times when being set on fire is fun, like when one is earning a place in the fraternity and has to light all the candles in the candle shop owned by the Dean’s ex-wife before her present husband, the chief of police, shows up and breaks out the Tazer weapons. But how often does such occasions come along? That’s right, boys and girls, not very often.

So, average company can agree that being set on fire falls into the category of inconvenience, and often things worse than that. But as we have covered, just because something is an undesirable occurrence does not mean that it will not take place. So, in the event you are set on fire, there are seven things you should avoid to minimize the chances your day will get even worse.

Seeking a fire extinguisher in a Fireworks Superstore

While we all can imagine a situation like being on fire foments a mindset of urgency, if you are caught in a situation where you are, in fact, engulfed in flames, you still need to keep in mind that you need to avoid complications. If you’re dismantling a ticking time bomb, you don’t merely hack away at the wires with a steak knife, do you? Of course not. Therefore, should you end up on fire, take a moment to consider the best way to alleviate the urgency of the situation without making it worse. Rest assured, running through a store filled with fireworks is less than ideal and this is why.

When the old adage of Stop, Drop & Roll doesn’t cut it (for those of you old enough to remember the philosophy of Duck & Cover, you can appreciate the futility) you’re faced with limited options. An alternative to rolling in the dry grass or the shards of glass within the mall’s parking lot is seeking a fire extinguisher. Most of us realize there are fire extinguishers all around us, particularly when in an urban setting (code issues, to be sure) so the first we’ll do is seek out one of those. But when you’re on fire, you may fail to see the forest through the trees, so to speak, and dart straight for the nearest location where a fire extinguisher is likely present. While that can often be okay, you must retain enough presence of mind not to run around in a fireworks superstore looking for the fire extinguisher. As you can imagine, the flames licking away from your person, along with the occasional spark fluttering away from you and being caught in the air conditioning current, can fall onto something that might aggravate the problem.

So, if you’re blazing through the store and barreling up and down the aisles like a dog in a cat chase, you could be setting ablaze all kinds of merchandise that, when afire, might cause a number of complications. Think about it; if you’re setting the place on fire, causing random explosions and other things associated with exploding fireworks, how are the people in the vicinity going to see addressing your concerns as the priority? If you are the only thing on fire, then sure, most people would take a moment to douse you, or at least go through enough trouble to push you into a decorative fountain. But if everything around them and you is exploding along with going up in flames, you’re just plain SOL, there buddy.

Keeping company with people prone to Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC)

So let’s say you’re out doing a little shopping. You’ve picked up a new sundress for your daughter’s Future Farmers of America Summer Picnic and Pig Show Extravaganza, you’ve worked up a goodly appetite and would like to check out the new Japanese steak house. You’re sitting there over a warm Saki (okay, your fifth) and looking forward to having some of that delicious stuff simmered up by the guy slinging around the knives much in the same way Uncle Pete does with the chainsaws after swilling a 12-pack of Icehouse during the holidays. (Uncle Pete took a Juggling correspondence course. It seems appropriate to point that out, lest many of you seem confused by the comparison).

But then something icky happens. An errant spark from the grill Mr. Ginsu is working trails away, catching fire to the frilly decorations over the seating around the grill, and voila, the lady sitting across you (the one with too much mousse in her hair) ends up with a head of flames. She attacks this as if she suddenly has a head akin to an unruly beehive and then, because of all the mousse-laden hair flying about (so much for lunch…) you end up on fire.

No, you weren’t looking forward to this. It’s doubtful you even saw it coming, but there you are, engulfed in flames from your Ivy cap down to your Thom Mc’An’s. Sure, this sucks, but then, something comes to mind…

How many of these people, in this place where many strangers are forced to sit in close proximity to one another, which is a common situation in these sorts of restaurants, are prone to Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC)? Are any of these people taking Aperithol, which happens to be effective in mild-to-moderate cases of abdominal bloating but can heighten one’s chances of SHC (simple blood tests can indicate your chances of this; please see your doctor before assuming an aspirin regimen) and therefore prompting additional people located in one place ending up on fire?

So, while it is difficult to recognize people who are conducive to high rates of SHC, we can learn to recognize situations favorable to difficulties triggering the affliction. Further, through trial and error (there are burn treatment centers making great strides in the minimization of scarring due to repeated incidences of being on fire, so sleep easier) you can learn to recognize certain hints and clues prominent in people at high risk to SHC. There is a certain look in the eye, a way about them, a characteristic that says, ‘I burn like a match head at the drop of a hat’. Once you learn to see these conditions before ending up in a situation not easily escaped, life is more enjoyable than being a swimsuit competition judge.

Flipping through a phone book while in an enclosed phone booth

While there is the case that phone booths are decreasing in popularity and frequency, they’re still here and there, depending on where you are. When you’re somewhere experiencing zero bars because you’re just plain old out there in the sticks of Tennessee or something, where everything looks like time stopped for this locality in the mid-fifties, there is a chance you’ll find one of those old phone booths (you know, the ones with the doors designed by a team of rocket scientists who spent years, working day and night, trying to come up with the universe’s most inconvenient door) with a phone book dangling conveniently by a plastic-coated wire, for all the world to access the world. There it is; the grandpappy of the internet!

But if you are engulfed in flames while wearing clothes not designed for flame retardation but instead constructed of polyester and nylon (eww…) such as an old mid-twentieth century gorilla suit, then you could find yourself back into the frame of mind seeking instantaneous gratification. The old, ‘I need help and, doggone it, I’m getting it’ standpoint sets in and then, kapow, there you are, in one of those old phone booths with the precursor to the search engine flaming up in your hands, attracting a lot of attention. If you weren’t screaming your bloody head off while trying to beat out the fire, you might hear something like this:

“Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. If I didn’t know better, I would say that city slicker, the one in the phone booth, is plum on fire.”

There is a mind-numbing pause, and then…

“Now that you mention it, Pa, I think you’re right. It does kinda look like that city slicker, the one there in that there phone booth, is plum on fire.”

But keep in mind that hearing this conversation or not hearing it ain’t making no difference, since there ain’t gonna be nothing done but maybe them doing this:

“Hey! You city slicker, there in the phone booth! You need to come out of there so as I can call Chief Talbot down at the fire station! Now, you stop your screaming and leaning up against the door, because you’re just making things…well, now you went and done it! The phone book’s all burned up! Now, how am I going to call…?”

You can see how inconvenient this can be. So, there are things powered less by cell towers that can be sporadic at best and more by the broader coverage of satellite reception. Satellite phones can work just about anywhere they can gain a line of sight to the sky (another reason to stay out of the phone booth) and allow you to make that call for help. Further, many of them have features such as speaker phone so you don’t have to press a plastic gadget next to your burning head and melting it to you, causing yet more difficulties.

From there, simply think about the common sense of trapping something on fire into a box where the available oxygen is bound to burn up rapidly, creating a scenario where you’re not only burning up, but could pass out, bonk your head and then fall up against that inconvenient door, preventing any assistance coming your way until the local authorities find someone who just happens to have one of those ‘jaws of life’ contraptions laying around.

So, write this on a rock: When on fire, don’t go in phone booths! Look for shower stalls! There is a difference!

Seeking some sort of ‘What to do if you’re on fire’ How-To Guide in a bookstore (if already on fire)

Prudence suggests this is the sort of thing you have in a first-aid kit in the trunk of your car or stuffed under the seat rather than prowling up and down the bookstore aisles while already on fire. If you were at a red light notorious for changing quickly but still deciding to perform a Chinese Fire Drill, you would ensure everyone knew their part before initiating the drill, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

Proper preparation is the key when faced with certain types of potential disasters, and the potential of ending up on fire during an inconvenient moment is just one of the many in the mix. So have your manual prepared and, even better, be familiar with the basics of the book well before you end up overwhelmed by your own personal inferno.

Further, you cannot fail to keep in mind that bookstores frequent a lot of relaxed people (despite all the overpriced coffee consumed) and the majority of the product in the store can be flammable. Okay, in order to simplify this, perhaps one should categorize bookstores in the same folder as Fireworks Superstores.

Yes, categorize this sort of store as the type to avoid when on fire, just like the fireworks superstore. There are other things to veer from when on fire, so let’s list a few now while this is in mind. We suggest staying away from (remember, this is when you’re on fire) gas pumps, Chinese restaurants, gun shops (you don’t want to be on fire, and then shot), party supply stores, and little Mom & Pop restaurants where all the seating is booth seating and the seat upholstery is always cheap vinyl decorated with several strips of duct tape. All of that stuff melts easily, so you do not want to sit there and end up with all of that flammable material under you. Besides, they all reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, so you could end up like that just to be asked to leave hungry and definitely thirsty.

Tandem parachuting

Now, of course you’re not going to pursue this while already on fire. My mother raised no fools. But there is the chance that you could be up there in the plane, perfectly fine and fire-free, and then while this person you just met is strapped to your back, you suddenly end up on fire. I know, I know; how does that crap just happen? While there’s nobody that knows why people catch fire in these situations, they do and something has to be done to correct the problem. Perhaps it has to do with the common people’s tendency to use oil-based conditioners and the rush of oxygen past the individual, but this assumption should be confirmed through a conference with Bill Nye.

A major reason to avoid tandem parachuting while engulfed in flames (and, to be specific, avoid base jumping and bungee jumping, too) is because the wild rush of passing air while you fall at speeds approaching terminal velocity is only going to feed the flames. Sure, there are those who might seek a plane ride while they’re on fire just so they can hurl their body into the open sky thinking they’ll blow out the fire much in the way one might blow out a candle. But no sirree, that is not working.

Beyond that, one’s choices to find methods of extinguishing the flames are plummeting at a pace equal to yours. Sure, you could watch below and hope to see somebody’s swimming pool or maybe a lake or pond, and then try to lean into your dive in the attempt to hit the water and put out the fire. But the chances of this are not good enough to rely on; instead, you’re just likely to cause another forest fire, end up on the news, and be litigated against by celebrities whose homes were burned up because of you. That’s besides the suit you’ll face coming from the instructor strapped to you, unless you were smart enough to convince them to sign the Spontaneous Human Combustion clause and disclaimer.

Attending the Future Farmers of America Summer Picnic & Pig Show Extravaganza

We’ve already established that this festivity could cause you to work up a hellacious appetite and end up in a Japanese steakhouse where all kinds of fiery incidents could occur. But let’s run on the assumption that things might spiral out of control long before the FFA show is over.

You’re sitting there, up to your elbows in rib sauce, flecks of rib meat hanging from in between your teeth, and you’ve just drained your latest mug of brew. So you get up and, while licking that scrumptious smoky and spicy sauce from your forearms, occasionally spitting out the errant pieces of meat you worked loose with your tongue, and meander to the rib table for another heaping helping just before you work your way over to where the fellas are standing around the kegs. You know they’re over there watching the game on one of them newfangled portable televisions, so you see it’s about time to see what’s going on in the third quarter.

And then, foom! you go up in flames. Sure, this is an irritating scenario, particularly since this was a good day when the beer went down smooth, making way for even more of that excellent rib dinner. Your daughter is having a great time racing her favorite horse around the barrels and doing some calf roping, and you’re feeling super tall after showing off the new truck. You know, the one that can crush cars and guzzles premium fuel like your pa guzzles brew from that keg.

This could prove to be an awkward situation in more than one way, and that makes things even worse. After all, the more scenarios existing prompts more scenarios existing where your body raging in flames could prove convenient to those around you.

Now, just so you know, when you are at a gathering where a fire is helpful, such as a barbecue or the 33rd Annual Glass Blowing and Manhattan Transfer Tribute Band Variety Extravaganza, there is a chance someone might see your enflamed condition as a good thing. That is why you should avoid these sorts of festivities when you might be feeling even a hint of flammability. Please take note:

“Ma! You need to rope up some of these young ‘uns and go get some more wood for the fire, ma! The fire is dying…never you mind, ma! That guy there’s got enough fire on him to grill up every lick we got! Hey there, feller’s! Throw that boy up on here!”

You see? This is not a desirable situation, and demonstrates fully while a democratic scenario is not always the best. Further, rather than having your enflamed situation addressed, you just might find yourself doused with something flammable.

The McDonald’s Drive-Thru

There are several reasons you should avoid the drive-thru at just about every fast-food location, and the thought that you could get a large drink you might be able to use to put out the fire consuming you is among them. But there are serious flaws in this logic and here’s why.

First of all, there is always some moron who feels he just has to order forty-two meals via the drive-thru (because, somehow, that’s easier for him) and every single one of those orders has a specific way they want their meal, from the amount of condiments on the sandwich all the way down to how much salt is on the fries and how much ice is in the cup. Yes, I want the entire order now and no, it isn’t all on one bill.

Then, this knuckle-dragging dumb-ass has to dig his grubby paws through every bag to make sure it’s right. We could go on and on with this, since there is no doubt all of you have seen instances where there’s at least one car in this nine-car line with someone who has this irritating mindset; nevermind the fact that you or anyone else could look to the left and through the store window to see that there is not one single, solitary individual in the line at the counter.

But see, you’re on fire, and by the time Captain Idiot is through the eighth Happy Meal…

“No, you’re going to have to do this over! This was supposed to be a girl’s Happy Meal, not a boy’s!”

-There is an unintelligible, garbled noise from the big, ugly machine with the menu board-

“I know I ordered four of each and I have four of each, but the third one was supposed…”

So, the lesson to learn is that you, just like every other fool in the drive-thru, thought this was going to be quick and convenient, but no, it isn’t. You’re going to burn to a cinder, your car is going to catch and then everybody is going to be standing around your carbeque trying to finish cooking the undercooked but otherwise ‘world-famous fries’.

So, there you have it. A total of seven things to avoid when you’re on fire. Keep them in mind, particularly if you’re prone to SHC.


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