Feature: Father nearly causes explosive inferno

by Joseph Lehmann

As Arthur “Buddy” Lehmann Jr. burned wood skids piled on top of the back yard fire pit like he would any other day, he and his wife Maureen did not foresee what would come.

It began when Buddy started the fire by lighting matches and old newspapers, making the flames rise higher and higher with intensity, making the tall pine tree branches surrounding their back yard move and sway to the heat and smoke of the fire. Not knowing when to quit, Buddy had the idea to also rake the leaves from the previous autumn to add to the fire. While getting a drink, Buddy did not see that sparks from the fire landed on top of the dead ferns and pines lying around the rest of the stack, causing the small flicker to turn into another bonfire, one that he could not control. Soon the fire spread to the stack of wood skids consumed it while feasting on the wooden fence separating their back yard to the pathway to their neighbor Joe’s construction garage.

Seeing the flames as she returned home from work, Maureen ran outside and unraveled the garden hose placed around the other side of the house. As she did, she remembered that lighter fluid and gas tanks used for the grill were still inside the gazebo by the fire pit, along with electric cords, empty beer bottles packed in their cardboard boxes, and wicker furniture covered in pollen. Should the near sky-high flames make contact with the gazebo, their house would be blown to kingdom come. As the fire and the foundations of the gazebo slowly made contact, Maureen threw water at the space between the fire pit and the gazebo, dousing the flames on the spot. After giving the hose to Buddy, Maureen called the Fire Department. Once the Fire Crews arrived some time later, the fire was under control; making smoke cover the yard and the street.

With the fire gone, the back yard became a mess: three sections of the fence had been burned away, some of the surrounding trees had black bark covering their trunks, and the wood stack had been nearly wiped out. Before the Fire Chief and the crew could reprimand Buddy for his foolish actions, they were called away to another job, leaving the two exhausted, shocked, and at wit’s end as they watched them drive away. Even when Maureen went to the Fire Station days later to see if there was anything they needed to do, there was no trouble between the two parties.

Despite the burnt-down fence, there were no hard feelings from their neighbors Joe and his wife Vera. The fence has been mended with new columns and posts planted in their old spots and the skids that remained now lay on the farthest edge of the backyard away from the fire pit. A pile of mostly burnt skids and ash lay as a testament to what Buddy had caused.

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