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Perhaps Not My Finest Moment (Or “I’m Glad The Church Didn’t Burn Down”)

December 22, 2016

Ever have one of those times where something seems like a good idea, or at least not a terrible idea, and then later you realize that you almost burned down a church?

So, Wednesday nights are when our boy scout troop meets. We have about a dozen 12 and 13 year-old boys. They are great kids. This was totally not their fault.

Next month we will be attending a district campout called the Klondike Derby. During the Klondike, the boys will have to work as a team to complete certain tasks. They will have to do lashings, and first aid, and pushups, and a number of other “scouting” type activities. One of which is to build a fire without using matches.

A cynical person might decide that since a lighter is technically not a match, we can just hand the boys a Zippo lighter and problem solved. Or, we can talk about flint and steel. It is possible to start a fire using a piece of flint and a metal scraper. A knife blade works great. You can buy flint and steel kits that include both.

Of course, it takes some practice and it doesn’t hurt to use some dryer lint. And if you soak that dryer lint with Vaseline, it works even better. Still, it’s not going to burst into flames the first time you scrape metal over your flint striker. You have to practice. We set out Wednesday night to practice.

The sparks from a flint and steel burn very quickly. You can strike the flint while standing and the sparks die before they get more than a few inches from your hands. So, striking flint and steel inside a building is perfectly safe. And that’s just what we did. We showed the boys how to get the steel at the right angle to maximize the sparks. And, of course, we had to show them how close they needed to get to the petroleum-jelly-soaked dryer lint in order to get it to catch. We placed the dryer lint on flat pieces of board that will eventually serve as our “stoves.”

And THAT is where we lost control. I’m still not sure how we went from throwing sparks to actual flames. The first one was

Oh, cool! It really works!

And then we quickly put it out. And then the one next to it was

We need to feed these twigs into the flame to keep it going.

And then we . . PUT IT OUT!!!

There wasn’t actually a smoke alarm in the room we were using. And we never actually lost control of any of the flames. But, it got very smokey. To air it out, we opened the window and the door to the hallway. . .where the smoke alarm was located.

Fortunately, most of the smoke went out the window and not into the hallway. Looking back, it really wasn’t that cold outside. We maybe should have moved outside as soon as we started putting spark to lint.

As leaders we nervously laughed about what we would tell the firemen.

“It’s okay. We’re boy scout leaders,” probably wouldn’t have gone over well.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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