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

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