Last month I travelled to Denton in north Texas to attend the annual Society of Ethnobiology meeting and present a paper on my recent early research into the (possible) role that birds may play in propagation of fire in the Australian landscape. While there I met up with a colleague from Manchaca, Texas who has recently forwarded to me a response she received from another colleague to whom she’d passed some information about my presentation and inviting his comment.

In due course he responded.

He wasn’t able to provide any information directly related to birds and fire but Leslie’s note piqued his interest and memory and he forwarded a couple of interesting snippets from the interwebs about fire and animals other than birds.

The first comes from the small town of Texarkana on the border of Arkansas and Texas and was reported in the Daily News under the header “Texas woman sets snake on fire, snake sets her house on fire” and related the story of a woman that “…was frightened by a snake outside her house, so she doused it with gas and had her son set it on fire. That plan didn’t work out so well.”

A Texas woman burned her own house down during a heated battle with a snake.

The serpent frightened the lady while cleaning outside her home Wednesday night. She doused the limbless reptile in gasoline and called over her son to set it ablaze.
The plan backfired.

Her son tossed a lit match at the creeping reptile but it slithered into a nearby brush pile, bringing the flames with it. The brush pile, too, caught fire and soon spread to the family’s home on Will Smith Rd. in Texarkana, Capt. David Grable of the Bowie County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to the Daily News.

“We were trying to kill a snake with fire,” the woman said during a 911 call. “It done caught the house.”
“Caught the house?” asked the dispatcher.
“Yes, the house is on fire. Could you hurry up please?”

The Liberty Eylau Fire Department arrived at the scene to find the family’s home completed destroyed and a neighbors’ home significantly damaged.
“There were two homes close together. One of them is a total loss,” said Jeff Neal, chief deputy at the sheriff’s office.

Fire chief David Wesslehoft told CBS 12 News that burning animals have been known to ignite larger fires.
“With rabbits and big field mice, once they start burning the grass they get out of their hole,” said Wesslehoft. “They have been known to catch on fire and take off.”

The second story of domestic conflagration caused by an animal comes from a report on something called the Ocean of Web and is headed “Small rat sets human house on fire and burns everything“.

… have you ever imagined that a small animal rat can burn any human’s house.

This sort of incident or accident happened recently some days back in Barmer district of Rajasthan state of country India where just one rat set fire in whole house. The fire was so powerful that even fire-brigade was unable to control it easily.

Actually, the family-members were worshipping one of their female goddess on the occasion of a festival. They lighted candle-sticks and went in another room for taking rest. Suddenly a rat came and took the burning candle with it.

The rat was successful in taking the candle to the bunch of clothes. The clothes caught the fire and the small flame grew into large one.

When the family-members saw the rising flames, they felt very surprised. All the persons rushed to the room from which the flames were coming. When they saw that the fire has spread in whole of the room, they felt helpless and started to scream.

The neighbors came to their help. But till then the whole house was in the grip of flames.

The neighbors and the family members started throwing sand and water on the rising flames. Meanwhile, they called fire-brigade. The fire-brigade team came to the spot and started their efforts in order to control the situation. They were trying their best but soon the water in their van finished and they also became helpless.

Then 2 water tanks were ordered to control the spreading fire. The fire-brigade team continued their work when the tanks arrived. At around 9:30 pm in the evening, the team with the help of neighbors was able to control the situation.

This incident happened near Manak Hospital in a home at around 7:30 am in the morning. The brigade team also reached little late as they found railway gate closed.

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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