The 'S' in Spring is for Safety

Hoosier Perspectives

No kidding around when it comes to staying safe.

Published on: March 21, 2011

My son Daniel was home from college this week and helped clean up around the farmstead. On Friday morning we had a ceremonial burning of the brush pile. It's a rite of spring. Fortunately, he's big enough to do it, has learned how to do it safely, and I don't have to mess with it anymore.

If it's legal to burn where you are and you're going to burn your own brush pile this spring, please be safe. As I watched the pile burn last Friday, I harkened back to an incident about 15 years ago, when a younger and slightly dumber, if possible, version of myself was trying to burn a brush pile. It was a damp, foggy November morning because I didn't want the smoke to cause someone to call a fire department.

The only problem was getting it to take off. I still used matches then. After 15 or 20 tries I was getting frustrated. Why is it something that isn't supposed to burn can burst out in flames, while something you want to burn can be stubborn about taking off and turning into ashes?

Getting frustrated, I got a little gasoline from the shed. I knew you had to be careful with it, and it wasn't the smartest thing in the world, but I thought if I soaked some paper towels in gas and lit them, the pile would take off. That plan fizzled—still not enough spark to ignite the pile.

I was down to throwing gas on it. Since there was only a small amount of flame that had actually already taken hold, I figured that if I stood back and threw a small cup of gas on the fire, I would be safe. I was wrong!

Kaboom! I remember the thunderous sound and shaking sensation yet. I also felt white hot heat as it shot out at my overalls. Fortunately, I was just far enough back to escape having the clothes catch fire. That was the last time I ever tried such a stunt, and I've made sure each and every child knows you never do that.

Unfortunately, that's not the end of the story. I decided to write about that event several years ago, to help others think twice before they took such a risk. The story went to press and I thought that was the end of it.

Then I got cards and letters—at least three or four. Sometimes we don't get any response for our stories- people read them and go on, or they talk to the source in a story rather than the writer. Not this time.

Instead of getting cards praising me for warning others, I got admonished for discouraging such a valuable practice! I'm not kidding! One writer went on and on about the proper technique to use when starting a fire with gas so you wouldn't get burnt. One writer form Michigan, who got our publication, was downright incensed that I was so dumb that I didn't know how to use gas to start a fire properly!

Look folks, life is short. It's kind of like crawling in the grain bin—it won't happen to you. It can happen to you—burning myself up with gas almost happened to me. It could have been a life-changing tragedy. So be safe this spring in whatever you do.

And if you burn brush piles, leave the gas in the gas tank!