Fire Danger on the Homestead

One homesteading family learned a painful lesson about the hazards of fire. Luckily, all was not lost.


| July/August 1976



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It could have been much worse, but luckily, help came quickly to the Brady homestead.


MOTHER EARTH NEWS

I suspect that—for most folks—moving back to the land is both an end and a beginning. It's a turning point ... the time when (at long last!) all those years of scrimping and saving for "that little place in the country" pays off. And perhaps this year you'll be among those who tear up their time cards, take off their ties, kiss the rat race goodbye, and head for some remote corner of God's country in search of the good life.

Wonderful! Go at it with a vengeance! Put your whole body and soul into your land! But don't ever forget—as we did—that everything you've worked so hard for can be wiped out in a matter of minutes by a single destructive element: fire!

When my husband and I first moved to our new farm we were on top of the world. Our place was right out of a dream: 60 beautiful acres in the hills of Kentucky, with fruit trees and springs, abundant wildlife, lovely woods, some open land, an old log cabin, and breath-taking views.

We did have one problem, however. Our land was overrun with honeysuckle, and the vegetation was choking our fruit trees (and everything else in its path). So we pulled up miles of the vine from around our house and elsewhere in order to give other plants (and ourselves) some room. And of course, the most obvious way to dispose of the brush we'd uprooted was by burning.

We knew from previous experience that March through October is the fire-hazard season in our state, and that burning throughout that period is permissible only after 4 p.m., when the winds die down. So we chose a nice February afternoon to do the job. Both of us thought it would be a perfect time.

Being avid backpackers and environmentalists, we knew the importance of clearing away leaves and other combustible materials from around any fire area. My husband and I had always practiced that safety rule when we went camping without a stove ... but for some reason, we didn't do it before we lit our piles of brush. When the fire began spreading into surrounding dry grass and broom sedge we thought we could control it. But we were wrong.





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