The three 15-year-old friends, all Boy Scouts, figured it would be a fun outing to head deep into the woods, where they would start a small campfire, cook up a few hot dogs, and roast some marshmallows. Greg agreed to bring the franks and the hot dog rolls. Andy would supply a bag of marshmallows and the mustard and relish, and David would bring paper plates and cups and would also grab a six pack of beer from the stash that his father kept in the refrigerator in the garage.
After hiking for about an hour, the boys scouted around for a suitable place to start their campfire, which didn’t take long. They put down their backpacks and began foraging for kindling and some decent sized branches for the fire. Using their Boy Scout training, they set about laying out the wood for the campfire. Once it was ready, David squirted some lighter fluid all over the wood, lit a match, and tossed it on to the pile of wood.
The three boys cheered as the wood burst into flames. They took some long, thin sticks they had scavenged from the ground, stuck their hot dogs on the ends of the sticks, and held them over the fire. David popped open three cans of beer and handed one to Greg and one to Andy. David took a long slug from of the one he kept for himself and then let out a long, loud belch. The three boys started laughing hysterically. Yes, it was going to be a fun afternoon.
What none of them counted on was the wind beginning to whip up a bit, causing some sparks and embers from their blazing campfire to be picked up by the strong breezes and carried off a few feet and igniting the dry forest tinder.
What none of them had anticipated was how quickly that tinder would burst into flames and start to spread. David tried to douse the rapidly spreading fire with the beer that remained in his can. The other two boys followed suit, but it was to no avail. They decided that they needed to run for their lives before they, themselves, became engulfed in flames.
What none of them could possibly have imagined was the thousands of burned acres, the homes and businesses destroyed, and the people who lost their lives as a result of the out of control wildfire that they started on their fun outing that afternoon.
Written for this week’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner from Roger Shipp. Photo credit: Morguefile.