I returned from a walk around the lake and was going to fulfill a promise of an afternoon nap, but was feeling refreshed and invigorated after the exercise. What perked me up at the end was putting a halt to the next California wildfire in the hills of New Jersey at the hands of a teenage boy a mere block from my house. (What is it with teenage boys and fire?)
I had just turned the corner onto my street when I smelled the acrid scent of woodsmoke, which was not alarming since everyone with a fireplace had them cranked up. The problem was the smell and the great pouf of smoke that came with it was not coming from someone’s chimney, but from behind two white pines.
I peeked behind the trees to see a merry little blaze crackling in the neighbor’s backyard. It was just a pile of sticks purloined from someone’s winter wood stash but the flames were already a foot high. There was no fireplace, no protective walls or bricks, just a pile of wood and the sunny flames of trouble. The neighbor’s shed was a few feet away.
A tall boy stumbled out of the house with an aluminum cauldron and placed it on the ground next to the fire. He put another stick on the pile and spoke to someone in the shed.
The flames danced and whirled in the wind. The boy pulled his pot away from the heat. No adults were around. The house was dark. The usual cars were not in the driveway.
Well, I sighed. Time to spoil this kid’s fun.
I stepped forward.
“That’s not a good idea,” I said, using my “mom voice.” Not having kids has not prevented me from having one of these. It really means, “I am not asking your permission and you don’t have a choice in what is going to happen next but I will give you a chance to make it look like it does.”
“What?” the kid said. “It’s just a little fire. And I have water here.” He pointed to the cauldron.
“First of all,” I said, “Building an open fire like that is against the law. Second, you have it between two trees and the shed. Little fires go out of control quickly, especially in wind like this. That little bucket of water is nothing. Use it now to put that fire out, please.”
And I stood there.
The kid turned his back to me. I stayed there for one minute, then two, fingering the cell phone in my pocket. The wind kicked up. The fire flared again.
Finally, the boy turned around to look at me, realizing I was not going away. Scowling, he picked up the water container and doused the flames.
This is not the first time I have stopped kids from playing with fire. Just what are they thinking?