Derrick was down in the gulch below Twenty-Mile when he saw it, a wall of flames cresting the draw. He cursed the lack of a radio, but they never worked that well up here anyway.

The wind roared up the gorge, the inferno drawing air like a well-built fireplace. No way to fight it now that it was crowning.

He looked at the fireline he’d been digging all morning. It looked pathetically small. A Pulaski was a good enough tool, but no match for a blaze like this one.

He wiped the sweat from his face and made his decision.


Friday Fictioneers

20 thoughts on “Twenty-Mile

    1. I was reading Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire about a group of firefighters who died in Montana fighting a huge blaze. There was another story about one of the airborne lanterns that caused a huge brush fire. The two together make for a tense moment.

  1. It seems that floating lanterns should stay in China, you told so well, how they can bring terror and destruction

  2. I like the way you went with this Josh – very tense and dramatic writing. Of course, I want to know what his decision was – keep digging? Desert his home? A very strong piece of writing

    1. Well, he’s a firefighter. Down is never a good idea, but up is impossible. They tell you to dig in and cover yourself with the fire shield, which is a foil blanket they usually carry in their pack. Whatever it is, it’s dangerous.

      1. Sounds absolutely terrifying, sitting there under foil as the flames lap over you. How brave these men are and how much we all need them. Well written Josh

    1. My friend Derrick was a Forest Service smoke eater for a few years. Imagine the hardest hiking that you can imagine while lugging seventy pounds of gear (rubber water tank, Pulaski (which is a spade-axe), McLeod (which is a rake-hoe), helmet, fire blanket and provisions. Then when you get to where you’re going, ten or so hours of back-breaking manual labor. And all the while, it’s so easy to get trapped by a fire that can move forty miles an hour through the treetops. Not a job for the faint-hearts!

  3. A terrifying take on the prompt. I have, in the past, released such lanterns into the air. Larger on my mind than the beauty of the moment was the possible consequences. I won’t release such lanterns again. Well done, Josh.

  4. Wow, great story, Josh! The technical detail gives a great feeling of authenticity, and you use it very effectively to draw the picture for us. And what a terrifying picture it is. Derrick’s options look pretty limited…excellent cliffhanger!

Don't just stand there.