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Spires: Watching the fire burn

Spires: Watching the fire burn

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Over the past month I have spent several hours burning torn out lumber and limbs left over from the last few storms.

There is something soothing about sitting and watching a fire burn. It has a way of comforting your soul, at least most of the time.

I learned the hard way to keep my fires small and manageable.

That was not always the case for me. I have, on a few occasions, let a fire get away from me.

So, for posterity's sake and as a warning to others, let me tell you about one of those disasters I created.

I owned a Badcock Furniture store in Carrollton, Georgia, in the 1990s.

Back then we got our shipments from the warehouse once a week. I had a nice loading dock at the back of the store where we could unload and unpack furniture and appliances.

Most everything back then came in some sort of cardboard boxes. Once we unpacked something the box was cut up and stacked behind the store.

I had someone that would come by once a week and pick up all of the cardboard and haul it off.

Riding lawnmowers were the exception; they came as a mixture of cardboard and a wooden frame. You had to disassemble the crate they were shipped in which left me with a considerable pile of wood also accumulating at the back of the store.

No one seemed to want the wood and it grew into a large pile, I decided I would burn the wood. I chose that particular day because it had rained the day before and I figured it would be a safe day to burn.

So, I took it from behind the store (smart move on my part) and put it in the center of the area that the semi-trucks used to back to the loading dock (it was not paved).

It took about an hour to pile all of the wood up. I had a hard time getting the wood to burn because it was still damp. When I finally did get it to burning, I ended up with a huge fire.

I tried to control it with a water hose and for the most part managed to keep it contained.

The fire was at least 25 yards away from the woods that bordered the lot on two sides. What I hadn’t considered was the pieces of cardboard used in the packing material that I had not removed.

Behind the store was a 10-acre stand of pines about 15-20 feet tall. Straw packed the ground underneath the pines. Before I realized it, some of that cardboard packing had gone airborne and ended up landing at the edge of those pines.

I really had not been too concerned to start with, because of the rain the previous day. Everything was soaking wet or that is what I thought.

What had not occurred to me was the dry straw underneath.

One of my employees had gone inside the store and when he returned, he saw the half-dozen little fires started in the pines behind me.

Ashes had drifted back there and started the fires.

For at least 30 minutes, I was in those woods with a broom stomping out little fires. Apparently, the fire had went under the straw and was spreading about as fast as we could put them out.

Thankfully, I didn’t burn the store or surrounding buildings down and got the fires out.

I’m sure if someone came by and saw us out there stomping out fires it would have remined them of one of those old Keystone Cops movies.

From that experience, I have learned to watch a fire and never take what I thought was a rain-soaked, straw-covered pine thicket for granted.

Byron Spires is a retired newspaper editor. He has written dozens of short stories and serials in the Havana Herald. He recently published “The Curious Life of Marci Bell: Part I,” in a series of three books. You can contact him at

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