The Great Fire of 2018 – Wirecutter Edition

A bit of a backstory first:
Last year I put in a garden in the same place the previous homeowner did, figuring the ground would be easy to till and would be nice and soft. Well, it wasn’t. The soil was rocky clay and hard as fuck. About the only thing that came up and thrived was beans. So, I let the garden go and when I say I let it go, I really let it go. Because of all the furrows and hills, I couldn’t mow it and grass grew about thigh high. My plan this year was to put in beans where I planted them last year, then till a bunch of mulch and manure into the rest of it in preparation for next year’s planting. Sounds good, right?
Last week I was checking it out and realized that even though all that grass was now laying on the ground, I needed to do something with it before I tilled it, otherwise I’d have to stop and clear the tines of woven grass every five feet.
Me being a lazy fuck, I figured to just burn it off.

Okay. Today I wandered out that direction and was wondering if I should give it a good misting of kerosene seeing as the past couple months were really wet, in fact, it rained all day before yesterday and then turned to snow. I woke up to a good inch of snow yesterday morning. So maybe just enough coal oil to get that shit going, right? The grass was so thick I wasn’t worried about kerosene even touching the ground as long as I didn’t get carried away.
Don’t get ahead of me now.

Anyways, I was standing there at one corner and I reached down and touched the dead grass. It didn’t feel too wet, maybe it’ll burn off without the coal oil. So I pulled my trusty Bic lighter out and barely touched the flame to the grass. There’s no wind at all, so there’s really no chance of it getting out of control.
Right about the time that shit lit off, the fucking wind gusted up from the south and all of a sudden I got a circle of dried grass about 3 feet across on fire. Oh fuck.

Then the wind shifted, coming out of the east. The fire that was contained in the garden has jumped it and is now burning the dead crabgrass that’s underneath the live grass, creeping right towards the house. I glanced over towards the water hose that’s hopelessly tangled on the mount attached to the house and realized that by the time I got that fucker untangled I’d be homeless. Then I saw the 5 gallon bucket under the spigot that I keep there to catch the hose runoff for Charlie’s drinking water, so I sprinted towards that. Okay, that’s about 40 yards away and other than fleeing from law enforcement, I haven’t sprinted since… let’s see, I got of the army in 1981, so… 1981. I grabbed the bucket and ran back towards the garden/firepit and splashed water on the fingers of fire headed to the house.

Then the wind shifted, coming out of the west, headed towards Kendall’s property where there’s even more dried grass and 3-4 huge rolls of hay to feed his livestock, as well as his feed barn, and here I am holding an empty bucket. I ran back to the house, stuck the bucket under the spigot and hauled ass back towards the action. When I got there, I could see 4 or 5 spots where the fire was creeping towards Kendall’s, so I started stomping it out with my boots.
I got that shit under control so I ran back to the house to get my bucket. When I got there, I realized that I was beginning to overheat even though it was only 55 degrees out. Must be all that running that I’m not used to. Then I realized that it was only my left leg that was overheating so I looked down and saw that of course I was feeling a little warm seeing as my fucking leg was aflame.

Motherfucker. I ain’t got but 3 pairs of Wranglers to my name (okay, two and a half pairs at this point) and Christmas is a full 9 months away. We’re poor folks and buying me new clothing is pretty much at the bottom of the Priority List. I get two pair of Wranglers every Christmas and here I am being wasteful of what I do have.
Now I’m not one to panic under any circumstances so I just stuck my foot inside the bucket and under the spigot to extinguish myself, then I grabbed the bucket and took off running towards the fire again, thump squish thump squish thump squish…

The fucking wind shifted again, coming out of the south once again and headed towards Wayne’s property and barn where there’s all kinds of old lumber, dead weeds and bundles of tobacco stakes laying around. If the fire reaches that, I might as well just give up trying to fight it and commence to coming up with a good excuse.
I throw my bucket of water on that and start stomping again and get those flames out, then make yet another run back to the house to fill my bucket. This running shit is starting to wear my 58 year old ass out, but I am winning. The only thing saving me was the fact that the thatch under the green grass isn’t burning as fast as the exposed grass in the garden. It’s just creeping, you know? It’s creeping, but it is spreading.

As I’m filling my bucket again, I hear a pop – I don’t know if it was a wooden knot or a possum exploding or what, but I look back towards the garden and see a shower of sparks igniting even more grass. Oh shit oh dear…

And the fucking wind shifted again, this time coming out of the north and heading right towards my sheds where I keep my lawn mower, my splitter, my saws, my generator, a half cord of wood and 40+ gallons of gasoline. Are you fucking kidding me???

At this point I do my usual when faced with disaster – I started laughing. I’m not fucking kidding, I’ve damned near burnt down my property, set Kendall and Wayne’s property afire, set myself on fire, and am fixin’ to see one hell of a fireball, and I’m sitting on the ground huffing and puffing and laughing like a fucking maniac – a pyromaniac. I know, huh?

I staggered back over that direction, doused the flames heading towards the shed and figured Okay Sparky, maybe you should start thinking about that hose and spray the entire area down to keep it from starting back up – “re-kindling” as us firefighters like to say.
I grabbed the hose and started untangling it, then connected it to the spigot and took off running trailing the hose behind me, then landed flat on my back when I ran out of hose. I only had 75 feet of hose and I needed 150….. I ran into the shed and grabbed another 75 feet of tangled mess, and hooked that up, then commenced to dousing hotspots.

So yeah, I finally got it put out and soaked down real good.
My cost? My dignity, my fucking know-it-all attitude, one pair of Wranglers and all the hair on my left leg.
Lessons learned? Have the fucking hose out there and untangled before I start playing with fire.
What I accomplished? Well, the garden (and part of the yard) is now burned off.

Go ahead and laugh. I did.

As a side note, I also found out Dennis’ Valkyrie holster is everything he says it is as far as retention goes – with all that running, stomping and jumping, my 45 stayed put in its holster. Good job, Dragon Leatherworks.

From the house

Headed towards Kendall’s place


Mission Accomplished

This is how close it got to Wayne’s property. Look at all that dead brush.

My fucking Wranglers. The inside of the pants leg looked worse but I didn’t realize it until I stripped them off to throw away.

This entry was posted in True Stories, Wirecutter. Bookmark the permalink.

69 Responses to The Great Fire of 2018 – Wirecutter Edition

  1. Cederq says:

    Now when the grass grows back it will be thicker and luxurious then it was before…

  2. Deb says:

    The Fire Starter, and fortunately, the Fire Ender(er?). Yard looks beautiful, though! I can only hope Miss Lisa was filming you with your pants on fire. You through out the Levis? You could have had cutoffs for those hot summer months.

    PS: Sometimes it’s just easier to go to the farmer’s market.

    • Wirecutter says:

      I wander around the property nekkid in the hot summer months.

      By beautiful I take you mean not covered in snow? It’s at its awkward stage right now – it’s trying to green up but there’s still huge brown patches. Give it another month and it’ll be coming up very thick and I’ll be back to mowing every 6-7 days.

  3. Paul Kanesky says:

    Did that. Amazing how fast fire can get out of control.
    Got the fire out before any serious damage
    Oh. Did I tell you when I did it I was 12
    Paul in Texas

    • Wirecutter says:

      Well, I burned a church down when I was 5, so there.

      • MadMarlin says:

        Lmao, all I can envision is you standing a comfortable distance away from the flames, saying ‘thank you Jesus, for not letting me burn up too’. All the while AC/DC’s Highway to Hell playing in the background. Dude, you truly make me laugh.

        • anonymous says:

          Life at the Lane household – never a dull moment . Did CharlieGawDammit offer to lift a leg to help extinguish the flames at all ? Or was he laughing his butt off ?

          Glad you are okay, your sense of humor is still intact.

  4. AC says:

    Nexy year. cover the area with a tarp with some rocks or bricks on top of it so it stays put, a month or two before you need to plant anything. Or at least set up a video camera before you burn it, next time.

    • Wirecutter says:

      Shit, if I’d known all that was going to happen I would’ve set the camera up.
      Maybe next year if I don’t slam my truck into the house or something.

    • RebPirate says:

      Or let your chickens free-range the area in the fall and winter. They’ll soften up and fertilize the soil, keep the weeds & grass at bay AND scratch almost every stone up to the surface & kick them to the edges. At least that’s what mine do for me in my little urban garden (12′ x 25′).
      Be sure to remove the chickens before you do a burn off though. Them little bastards are hard enough to catch when they’re not aflame.

  5. MrMoJoe says:

    “Where Bad Choices Make Good Stories”

  6. Jesse in DC says:

    Good to see that even in retirement, you have an adventure or two left in you.

  7. Mark Simko says:

    Maybe you should get a body camera. That way you’ll be ready to capture any of your further adventures.

  8. Winston Smith says:

    Hey, you accomplished your goal AND got some exercise(and you didn’t die).

    If anybody says anything about your pants, just look at them like theyre from Mars and say ‘you aren’t up on current styles, are you?’ Leaves them a lot more bumfuddled than Fuck You.

  9. Angel says:

    What size do you wear? I have been stockpiling good used Wranglers I find at garage sales. Most still have tags. Got 30 to 40 pairs waist sizes 34, 36, 38, 40, various lengths. Be glad to trade you some for a copy of your book. Hint, hint.

    • Wirecutter says:

      I only wear one particular style and I’m too lazy to get up and get the model number from the tags.
      I’ll email you later with it. Hey, you’ve already got a free copy coming anyways.

  10. Steve in ky says:

    Dude I did just about the same thing a few years ago. Its still funny.

    • Wirecutter says:

      When Lisa finally walked out the door and saw it when it was all over she turned to me and said “You’re gonna post about this, huh?”

  11. donnie says:

    Well, I can’t say “pictures or I don’t believe it”. Damn. As my great Uncle Bedford, God rest his beautiful soul, used to say “It ain’t the story, it’s the tellin’ of it that counts”. Ken, you win the Bedford Lynch Award for 2018. Congratulations. If you had known Him, You would not take the award lightly.

  12. Winston Smith says:

    Reminds me of a few years back; my buddy and I were up in the reclaimed strip pits (TN) doing some target destruction. Well, he sometimes imported containers of fireworks and brought along some that didn’t sell that season. He asks “what do you think will happen if I shoot one of these?”

    Me: ‘Nothing, bullets don’t set off black powder AND you cant hit it from here anyway’

    I turn my back to load some mags and then BOOM. Itwas some kind of mortar shell that throws burning magnesium stars everywhere and it went off as designed, just not as high as designed. He’s laughing his ass off cause he lucked into hitting it AND I was wrong about setting it off. I am so rarely wrong(well, ok just this once) that he is having a grand ole time.

    OK, fucker, you win this one. Good shot. And I go back to loading mags.

    Then he says “hey, I think the mountain is on fire” all casual like.

    Holy Fuck, there’s at least 2 dozen fire circles spread over 60+yds and they are growing rapidly. I grab a tarp to beat with and run downrange and am frantically trying to stop the spread. After I’m about out of breath and my heart pounding, I look to see how he’s doing and Fuck if he isn’t still at the truck laughing his ass off.

    ‘GET YOUR GD FATASS DOWN HERE AND HELP ME!’ I mean, shit its his fire anyway.

    After about 10 more minutes, I’m starting to think we are indeed going to burn down the mountain and the strip mining company is going to come after our stupid asses for all that expensive reseeding they did. I’m deciding which mud puddle to get the mud out of to hide the license plate and which gear to grab and what to leave behind to burn. And how fast he can drive his truck down those old mtn roads.

    But the gods smiled on me at that point and we were able to get it stomped out.
    We still covered the plate, gathered all the gear, and left.

  13. fjord says:

    I SEE DONKEYS!!!!!

    OH, and great story. -snicker-

    • Wirecutter says:

      Yeah, he’s got a pair in that section, then across the road he’s got a pair of ponies running with his beef cattle.
      Those donkeys are pretty skittish. If they see me in the yard they’ll come up to the fence, but still won’t let me within a couple feet of them before they start backing away.

      • Angel says:

        Two donkeys and an ass?

      • fjord says:

        Dont make eye contact. Pretend to do something else when your near the fence like you dont see them. Nosy fuckers. Carrots help too.
        I’ve tamed(spoiled) many skittish Amish horses this way.

        • Wirecutter says:

          Nosy is right, if they see me they have to come check out what I’m doing.
          They’re good neighbors – I don’t think I’ve ever heard either of them bray and the coyotes give both of our properties a wide berth.

  14. Chuck Rienzo says:

    Every country kid has to burn off the tall grass ONCE just because he KNOWS how this works….
    And then he has to save the 100+ year old barn full of 50 yr old straw by 18″…..

    I did it at 14. Yrs just a TAD developmentally delayed, is all…

    I actually DO feel your pain…all I had was 1 rake…finished off 3/4 of an acre though….

    And I STILL shake over how close I came to burning that barn.

    Garden was OUTSTANDING that year though…

  15. outdoorjohn2014 says:

    I set my shop on fire years ago and finally determined that the empty/full ratio of available fire extinguishers on the premises was exactly 6:1.

  16. livintoride says:

    wear those jeans with pride.
    you kept it on your property and no one is homeless..
    besides i bet every time miss lisa sees that burned pants leg she’ll snicker a bit …

  17. SgtBob says:

    Anybody who hasn’t set grass on fire (or a structure) never lived in the country. It’s one of those growing-up things — how good are you in an emergency? If you live through it and the house and barn are still standing when the fire is out, the world is OK. Good story.

  18. DW says:

    I think I have those same kind of boots. Had them for many years.

    For some reason while I was reading your post the Benny Hill soundtrack was playing in my head. Thanks for the laugh. Glad you got it under control and got some exercise. Video would be great next time.

  19. Sarthurk says:

    Oh, Kenny, Kenny, Kenny… What are we to do?

    • Sarthurk says:

      Hey, Me and a bunch of Boy scouts nmad near started the southern Idaho desert on fire one night. Us Boy Scouts from Western Oregon know how to start a fire. We knew how to put one out real quick too!

  20. Chris Mallory says:

    Man, that is why you have a shovel in hand before you start burning. I learned that at 7, I think.

  21. Curtis says:

    idiocy is its own rich reward.

  22. brighteyes says:

    This fall throw down some Crimson Clover and some 10 10 10. Great cover crop and really chokes out the weeds. Come spring ya aint got a root system from hell to break up. I had a garden full a clay an rock and did winter wheat one year. The damn root of the wheat just added to the aggravation of tilling. In time the clover will amend the soil right nice.

  23. Tal says:

    thump squish thump squish thump squish…

  24. Slick says:

    Oddly enough, a gas powered leaf blower is one of the best grass fire putter outers there is. Local FD and Forestry Service have them on all their trucks. Stay around the edge and blow it back on the burned area.

  25. Kenny the Scot says:

    I was actually listening to Duster Bennett when I clicked over & read this story …

  26. Stevie says:

    So, Ken, the church incident didn’t come to mind before….you…you know…

  27. Andrew says:

    I set a compost pile on fire trying to flame cockroaches when I was 13. I think I finally was able to sit when I turned 14.

    As to the garden, talk to the local mule and cow owners and get some manure to mulch into the garden. Can’t hurt, might help.

  28. matt says:

    Hey I’ve got several pair of good wranglers I “grew ” out of if you send or post the size you wear I’ll ship them to you if they’ll fit!!

  29. dang it!, yep yep yep luis says:

    Good story, :The Adventures Of Farmer Ken”

  30. wes says:

    Oh shit, I’m laughing so hard I’m crying.

    Damn, but you can put together a story.


  31. Nifter says:

    Been there done that. This fall cover the garden with clear poly when you put it to bed. Make sure to trench in the edges, and weight down the center with some rocks. The sun will cook a lot of those weed seeds.

  32. Ergo Slugg says:

    HO-LEE-CHIT, that made me laugh…and remember.

    About forty years ago I nearly burned down the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois with a darned Chinese firework that took off, made an impossible 90-degree turn, then made another impossible 90-degree turn and hit the grass 100 yards away. Thought we were okay, until it went *pop* and blew off the nosecone…instant flame leapt into the air. I’ve never run so fast in my life, down the hill and to the impact point, as the grass erupted into flame. Fortunately, we had a multi-gallon collapsible water container with a spigot. Used it like a bagpipe/fire hose and sprayed it until the flames went out. Stood there monitoring it for re-flare, shaking like a newborn fawn, until it was clear that the incident was over. It’s amazing what adrenaline can do for you!

    Sorry about your burnt jeans.

  33. Steven says:

    I work for Wrangler. What size\ stile do you like?
    I may be able to hook ya up.
    That story was great. Been there, done that.

  34. Kerry says:

    Years ago, an old man showed me how to get a grass fire under control fast. He pulled a green pine branch off a near by small tree, and just walked around the edge of the fire, knocking it back on it’s self. I see some ever green trees in the back ground of the first pic. Should do just a good as a pine branch.

  35. NewVegasBadger says:

    Yes, I am laughing. But, I am laughing WITH you and NOT at you.

    Reminds me of an interment meme: A picture of an angel in grief laying over a grave. Top part of the caption: My guardian angel be like. Bottom line: Now what did that moron do?

    • crazyeighter says:

      Alternate caption: “Oh, fuck! I’m gonna lose my job and wind up in Hell with him!”

  36. Sanders says:

    Heh! Glad it didn’t get out of control on you!

    Grass fires I’ve started — welding on my drill rig, and one started underneath. I expected it and had a couple buckets of water handy.

    Started one with a .308 tracer from my M-14 – a buddy gave me a couple hundred rounds of tracer and I went out to the desert to try them out. I was shooting into a soft dirt bank. What could go wrong? Very first round hit the bank, and then somehow hopped over it and started the grass on fire behind it.

    Firecrackers – nuff said

    Ft. Carson, Colorado – M202 Flash at the LAWs range. I’d fired a dud LAWs rocket and the Lt. in charge felt sorry for me and gave me the M202 to fire. It was a 4-round, repeating rocket launcher that shot Willy Peter rounds. I hit my target, it made a big beautiful flash. Then the grass started burning. The Lt. told us to grab the fire suppression equipment and go put it out. I said, “Sir, with all due respect, there are uncleared dud explosives out there. Someone could get killed.” Then the wind came up. I think the fire burned 4,000 acres before it got put out.

  37. Bill Wixby says:

    Was out on dry pasture, August, mowing after 10 am. (Dumbass move, that) was afraid the overgrown grass would catch. It did! Looked back across the field to see three smoldering patches from where the mower had hit rocks. Ohfuckohfuckohfuck- my property adjoins National Forest, and we were one fire up already the next town over. I didn’t want credit for the second.

    Ran like hell across the field, stomping like a mule- how I got them out, I don’t know- one burst into flames under me as I jumped on it.

    I learned the hard way that day- have all your fields mowed before the grass browns. Never mow dry grass on a hot day- you’re asking for trouble.

  38. Sharon Holz says:

    My husband, a very smart and educated man, decided to kill the tent caterpillars. With a blow torch. It was working great until the burning caterpillars hit the leaves and started out woods on fire. Thankfully when he started yell his fool head off I was watering my garden. Turns out the engineer that lived next door was doing the same thing. Both fires were put out with a lot of stomping!

Play nice.