HOW TO BURN A HOUSE • by Aaron Polson

When it comes to actually burning the house, remember a good blaze is a work of art. It’s all about three ingredients: oxygen, fuel, and heat — the right amount of each make a fire something special. You skimp on one of the three, and the house just simmers. Rank amateur.

Before I even think about lighting up, I always open the windows so the fire has a good air supply.  A few guys I know like to break windows, but I figure it’s a matter of taste. Always seems like overkill anyway, busting up the windows before the fire. Broken glass gets everywhere. Just a matter of opinion, I guess.

The house provides plenty of fuel itself, but a nice, high quality job — a masterpiece — needs a little nudge. Gasoline works great, and my Daddy’s hand-me-down metal can gives me a warm feeling like he’s right there with me. They don’t make those metal ones anymore, but a good plastic container will do. Rubber gloves are good, too. I had a little spill once that made my hands stink for a week.

If there’s a basement, start there with the gas because fire likes to travel up. For finished basements, sprinkle gas over the furniture and splash a little on the walls. Don’t waste any time with the floor if it’s tile or bare concrete. For an unfinished basement, make sure to soak the support beams and exposed wall studs — anything that will burn.

From there, douse the rest of the house, hitting the furniture first, a little on the walls, from the lower floors up. If the gas runs out before the attic, so be it, but don’t forget to save a little for the bedrooms, even if they’re on the top floor. Don’t hang around too long, of course, but make sure the bedrooms have a little boost in the fuel department. Most window dressings go up pretty well without much help, so do blankets and clothes, so use the gas sparingly on those areas. On a personal note, I make sure to dribble a little over all family photos and other personal knick-knacks. It’s a nice touch.

Make sure to save the fuel containers — especially if they’re those nice, metal kind — and grab the igniter. A fire has to have heat to get going. Matches work fine here; no need for fancy lighters or ignition devices. Some folks prefer to stay outside the house to light the fire. In this case, drop the lit matches through an open basement window or two. Personally, I like to set the match to a few spots in the basement myself, but that’s just because I’m a hands-on guy. Once that sucker is lit, get out and drive away — not too fast of course, but not like it’s a sight-seeing vacation or anything.

I should mention one last thing: it’s best to go back to the bedroom and check on the owners before lighting the place. Don’t look them in the eye — I’ve known guys to break down when they look them in the eye — but make sure the cable ties are still holding their hands and feet. I always use cable ties because they can’t be undone like rope or twine and they can’t be torn like tape. Of course nothing beats a good hunk of duct tape across a mouth once the hands and feet are bound. Wouldn’t want somebody hollering out and spoiling the fun before a nice, big inferno got going, would you?

Aaron Polson is a high school English teacher and freelance writer. He currently resides in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, two sons, and a tattooed rabbit. His short fiction has appeared in various places, including Reflection’s Edge, GlassFire Magazine, Big Pulp, Johnny America, and Permuted Press’ Monstrous anthology. You can visit him on the web at

Rate this story:
 average 3.5 stars • 29 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Five Stars. The last paragraph is a punch to the guts. Creepy.

  • Excellent! I love it a lot.

  • Margie

    Now I know what “spine-tingling” means! I just hope there is no cats out, who plan to use this as a how-to-manual. Creepy!

  • Margie

    I hope there “ARE” no cats out. . . . oops!

  • It’s 4:00 in the morning and I couldn’t sleep any more so I decided to read EDF. Now I won’t be able to go BACK to sleep…at least not in a bed.

    Aaron. Stephen King is going to have to fend you off. And how the hell is that star thing-y total not “5.”

  • What a horrid character and even “horrider” action!

    Five stars from me!


  • Wow! This was a great humor piece. Er, it WAS intended as humor, wasn’t it? I hope …

  • This was very dark and creepy. Love to see something here with some bite. Definitely a five star story. Well done.

  • Great story, Aaron. But dude, you’re starting to creep me out a bit…

  • Jen

    That was terrifying! Wibderful, but terrifying…

  • Thanks everyone. Yes, Jim. Humor. The blackest kind, of course.

  • Robins Fury

    OMG, that was manic! The last paragraph was a keeper!

  • I like the use of the word “horrid” in the above commentary. Too perfect! I was grinning pretty much the whole way through this, Aaron. Well done with the voice!

  • I agree, the last paragraph ratcheted up the chill factor to the extreme, especially this sentence: “Don’t look them in the eye — I’ve known guys to break down when they look them in the eye …” Excellent!

  • Arthur

    Didn’t work for me, couldn’t get the wretched curtains to ignite. Nothing wrong with the instructions though.

  • Excellent. Very well done. I agree, the last paragraph gives the story an added bonus.

  • Fire! Fire! Hehehe.

    5 stars. 🙂

  • Debra

    Someone needs a bit of therapy, but the story is great.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    A chilling ‘How to…’ guide.

    The ending didn’t quite work for me. Perhaps if there are specifics as to who the homeowners should be, ie. retirees living alone, it would work better.

  • Sharon

    Well now, wasn’t that a lovely read before bedtime? When will I learn to notice the category before proceeding? I suppose it’s all right…I don’t live anywhere near Lawrence, Kansas, after all…

  • YvonneP

    Eww, I’m right creeped out, but inspired. Thank you.

  • YvonneP

    Inspired to write something creepy, just to be clear!

  • Natalie L. Sin

    Educational AND terrifying!

  • Delightfully horrible.

  • Yep, the last para is a killer, and the idea of Daddy’s good old metal can is sweet.

  • i’ve burned few houses before and the results weren’t good. maybe i’ll apply your tips next time…

    5 stars… good job.

  • Mathew Matheson

    Enjoyable little read but experience has taught me that the house would instantly explode like a fuel/air bomb from all of the gasoline vapours once there is an ignition source…try it like I have and you’ll see what I mean…then again maybe you should just take my word for it…nowadays I use the jellied gasoline in a can that you find in camping stores…far less explosive but equally effective.

  • timejumper

    Nice story. It flowed well and kept my interest till the end.
    Speaking of that, the end was creepy as intended. I had been thinking of an empty house, but an occupied one worked even better.

  • It was interesting, black humour.. and very enjoyable..
    the last paragraph made this story all the more enjoyable.

    5 stars for sure or else you’ll burn my house as well 😛