The Burn Pile

During my service in the Army I spent most of my time in South Korea. My last duty station was at Ft. Stewart in Hinesville Georgia.

While in Georgia I had the opportunity to pick up a few side jobs working with a friend who had been in the area for some time, and had a knack for finding extra work.

One particular job involved moving construction debris from a large pile the size of a semi trailer away from the house that it was removed from, and into a field where we could then burn the pile. We worked for several hours and managed to get about a third of the pile moved into the field and decided to burn this pile and call it a day. We would return another day to move the remainder.

It didn’t take much to get the fire started. Most of the items that were in the pile were removed from a 100 year old plus home and were extremely flammable. This included doors, trim, wall studs, flooring, wall board and more.

At first we stood a few feet from the pile and basked in the glow of our accomplishment. After a few minutes the fire grew much larger and we found ourselves inching back to avoid being burned. Within 15 minutes we were standing at least 20 feet from the fire and feeling the heat pretty good.

Everything seemed to be going well until we noticed that the grass around the burn pile began to catch fire and was spreading slowly outward. My friend, who I should mention was senior in rank, decided to grab the garden hose to water the grass in hopes of keeping the fire from spreading.

The water output was nowhere near capable of getting the job done, and the fire was now working its way to a wood fence which was very close to the new house we were moving the pile away from to protect while burning.

In a flash I remembered an incident that happened while working range duty as a medic in South Korea.

It was during the summer, and someone had left a tracer round in a 50 caliber belt. This was not allowed when weather was dry as tracer rounds are really good at starting forest fires. Sure enough, one round started a fire and within minutes the range was shut down while over 50 of us attempted to put out the fire.

We worked for 30 minutes in a futile effort when a truck with 10 South Korean Firefighters showed up. They walked up to the scene casually, surveyed the fire and dispatched in a line to battle the fire. Within minutes, armed with only picks and shovels, they had the fire contained and sat on the hill eating their lunch while the fire extinguished itself. It was impressive to say the least.

Back to present day. This knowledge was very helpful. We grabbed a couple of shovels and worked our way around the spreading fire digging a shallow trench. Pretty soon we had control of the situation and exhaled in relief.

As we drove away, we were both very grateful for those South Korean firefighters and how experiences can a huge difference in someone’s life. It sure made a difference in my life, and I am very sure it made a difference in that homeowner’s life.

Remember, Life is Good.

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