A Winter Fire
By Peggy Farnsworth

..... The winter was 1990 in a cabin in the mountains in Southern California. Temperatures one day took an unusual rapid dip well beneath normal lows and began an abrupt crystal freeze on the hill. Alone with her daughter and husband away for the day, the mom of the house gathered all the wood she could find to stoke up a fire in the new woodburning stove she and her husband had just finished building. If ever a warm fire was needed, it was now and no better time to test how efficient this little stove would work. Hastily cutting up kindling from logs gathered in the nearby woods, she began her woodbase inside the fire chamber. Gradually she added larger and larger pieces, and in due time had a fire that glowed warmly. But because of the pine she was using, she had to stop her chores frequently to add more logs to the quickly burning wood.

One particular log sat to the side.....a particularly heavy log with an odd shape to it. She had found it on one of her outings and thrown it on the pile. She felt an uneasiness about it, not knowing just what it was, but decided because it was so heavy, it would burn longer than the pine and so, into the fire it went. After latching the iron door firmly, she went back to her chores.

..... After awhile, she became aware of a strangeness.....a sixth sense that told her something was amiss. Mostly, she could hear a subtle roar coming from somewhere intermittent with the howling wind outside that whipped through the 50 ft. high pine trees causing them to swaw at their tops fericiouly. Fear slowly building within her, she began her investigation throughout the house to find the cause of the problem. She checked the fireplace, and all looked fine there. The fire was stronger than before, but seemed contained and doing well. Finally, she bundled herself up and fought her way out into the cold against the wind and made a circle of the cabin.

.....When she rounded the back corner to a place where she could view the smokestack of the woodburner, she was aghast. There out of it's stack were roaring hot cinders and black smoke with such a ferocity she couldn't belive it.


..... New to mountain living, she strained to remember what she was supposed to do and ran to the kitchen for a bucket of water. Opening the door to the stove, she threw cup afer cup on the fire, but it wouldn't go out. The log had a mind of it's own . Finally she ran to the phone and placed a call to the local Fire Department down the road and then returned to the stove to try to pour enough water on the log to douse it. Her biggest fear was that the stack would start a fire to the roof above and the whole house would go up in flames.

.....Within minutes the fire department arrived and by then thankfully, she had had the wit to grab the log, flames and all, with fire tongs, and throw it out the back door into the snow & ice. .....

What she hadn't known, was that she had inadvertently thrown onto her fire what is known as a 'burn log'. When a forest fire sweeps through a forest, pine trees, in their efforts to preserve their own lives, immediately send all of their sap into the center of the tree where it become concentrated. The outer tree may burn, but the center is filled with it's volatile sap. In a far distant past, the nearby woods had experienced such a forest fire and the rotted log she had picked up...only a foot long....was but the reminants of just such a burned tree. When lit, it became like a torch that couldn't be doused and in a larger fireplace, probably would have burned for hours with no menace. In the small woodstove, it had all the right conditions to indeed become it's own torch and nearly torched the whole house.

This is a completed story. The author who submitted it did not intend for it to be added onto.

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