I love torching things. I don’t think it’s a full-blown illness, just something that gives me more than a frisson of delight to engage in. Like the other day, for example, when I was in the garden burning all of the hedge trimmings that had been obscuring the shed, using the special bin for burning things (it's like a normal bin, but with a special lid and some holes).
Don’t get me wrong here, I paid attention to the fire brigade adverts they used to show when I was little – and I certainly paid attention to the firemen who turned up at school with their fire engine blaring and flashing and hulking, handing out stickers and little plastic yellow helmets. They were well cool, and I got to sit inside.
I well remember the hazards of tealights explained to me by 999 Rescue's Michael Buerk, as he introduced a staged reenactment of someone's neglected flame melting through the telly and taking the living room with it in minutes. Not only that, but I’ve also seen Kurt Russell in Backdraft, so I know the dangers of kicking in the door to a house that’s on fire without first touching the handle to see if any skin gets left on it. I know the dangers.
In many ways, my leaf-burning incident was like a miniature version of one of the many action setpieces that popped up in that seminal early-90s film. I’d blown the fire a bit to try and stoke up the tension (heat), I got my pokey stick out to try and distribute the ingredients a bit better in the bin for burning things, and WHUMPF, a shot of flame in the air as suddenly everything came together to create majestic flames that I would have had a chance to admire were I stood perhaps several metres over there.
Sixth-degree burns to the cuticle. Sam Burnett's warning story coming to a billboard near you soon.
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