When the World Becomes a Flame

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
July/August 2007

Connor Pickens

Josh watched all the heads bouncing up and down as he hiked down the trail. He was on a Boy Scout hike with his small troop through the large forests in California. This would most likely be their last hike for a while because they were going to go skiing in the mountains for a few weeks.

He had been a Boy Scout for two years now and loved the long outdoor hikes they had during the summer. Now it was mid-October and the troop was growing tired of hiking all the time, and looking forward to the skiing and snowboarding they were going to do.

Josh looked down at his uniform filled with pins and badges of all sorts that he had earned these last two years. He looked up at the gray sky with birds flying in a flying V formation. He watched the trees filled with reds, yellows, and oranges. Josh loved the outdoors, the animals, the smell, and especially the feeling of adventure it gave him.

Josh’s troop decided to take a short water break near a few small stumps on the side of the dirt path. Josh was happy about the rest. He enjoyed hiking but grew tired easily. He sat at one of the stumps next to his best friend, Eric, who was an expert on birds. Josh took a large gulp from his large water bottle he had brought. The cold water instantly quenched his thirst. Eric took out his binoculars and started scanning the sky for any sort of bird.

When the troop leader, Bill, stood up and announced that it was time to start the hike again, Josh picked up his backpack and placed his cap back on his head. Eric, still searching for some kind of hawk, slowly stood up. “Come on,” said Josh to Eric, “you’re going to trip, not being able to see where you’re going.”

When the World Becomes a Flame looking at fire

“Josh, there’s a big fire going off a little ways from here!” said Eric in a panicking voice

“One more second,” replied Eric excitedly. “I think I just saw the golden hawk in that tall tree!”

“Really?” asked Marc, the brainy kid of the troop. “They’re supposed to be really rare this time of the year.” Marc searched the cloudy sky for the bird. “I don’t see it anywhere!”

“Time to go!” shouted Bill, who had assembled all the other scouts on the road. He started walking and the boys ran to catch up. Josh was second to last in line. Eric, still having his binoculars up watching for the golden hawk, kept bumping into him.

“Sorry” said Eric for about the twelfth time in the last ten minutes, “I can see the hawk, but it keeps circling around in the sky so I have to keep my eyes on it at all times.”

“That’s OK,” said Josh, looking back at the watchful Eric. “Just be a little more careful, OK?” Eric didn’t answer. “Eric, did you hear me?” questioned Josh, turning back to see his friend had stopped far back, looking above the tall trees.

“Josh, there’s a big fire going off a little ways from here!” said Eric in a panicking voice. “I think it could be a forest fire.”

“We’ve got to tell Bill now!” Josh said quickly in a hoarse tone, filled with nervousness. Josh started off in a sprint with Eric close behind him. Almost all the way to Bill, Josh and Eric started yelling, “Bill, Bill, there’s a big fire going on in the woods! It looks like it’s pretty big by the looks of the smoke!”

*          *          *

Bill immediately stopped and halted the hikers. “Where is the fire?” questioned Bill, while grabbing the binoculars from Eric. The boys pointed in the approximate direction, and Bill turned the binoculars towards the area that their fingers pointed. “Well,” started Bill, quietly concentrating, “I don’t see anything.” Bill adjusted the binoculars silently with his large hands. He put the binoculars back to his kind, concerned face again. “Oh my gosh you’re right!” screamed Bill, jumping backwards on the ground. Bill told everybody what he had seen and told them how they were going to handle the situation.

“So,” Bill was saying to the troop, “we have to be calm and not panic about this. There is a ranger station about ten miles from here. They’ll help us get out of here, but we’ll have to be fast, so let’s get going.”

The troop started out quickly for the ranger station. Everybody was dead quiet as they walked briskly along the trail. They took a minute break every ten minutes or so to conserve their energy. The whole troop could now see the towering smoke shooting up into the sky like an endless tower of black and gray.

Must be from all the dry weather we’ve been having lately, thought Josh to himself as he trudged behind Marc. They were about halfway to the station, but the smoke was coming closer and closer every minute, and the kids were beginning to feel nervous and scared.

Bill kept urging them to go faster. The troop was now jogging slowly down the path, all the time looking over their shoulders expecting a fiery blaze to be right behind them. Then someone behind Josh started screaming, “I see the fire. I see the fire!”

Everybody glanced behind them, looking at the torch of fire coming at them far behind them. Eric started to cry, which people didn’t see him do very often. Bill ran back to the end of the group and screamed, “Run!”

The boys took off across the trail as if the world was coming to an end. Bill was running behind them making sure no one got left behind. “Only two more miles,” he shouted as they passed a sign. The fire was only about a mile and a half behind, but they could see it easily through the smoke-filled sky. The boys ran faster and soon only had a mile to go, but the fire was only a mile behind. The boys were now sprinting as fast as they could.

They rounded the turn and found the ranger station right in front of them. The two park rangers were already packing the two jeeps they had. Bill ran over to them, using the rest of his strength, and began explaining their situation. The rangers told them to hop in while they got the maps. The troop scrambled in and waited impatiently for the rangers’ return. The rangers each drove a jeep, with Bill in the passenger seat of the first. Eric and Josh were both in the second jeep, along with two other kids.

The rangers stepped on the gas and drove away from the fire as fast as a rocket. They followed the trail for a while and soon found the interstate. The kids all cheered enthusiastically and the rangers drove them into town. Above their heads flew buzzing helicopters heading for the fire. The whole ride the troop had ridden in silence, but now the rangers turned on the radios.

“Helicopters have just been sent to this fire and are expected to arrive shortly” the reporter informed the still nervous people driving down the highway. The rangers listened for a little, then turned the radios to a popular station playing some music for the kids until they reached the town. They all stopped at the Gas ‘n’ Go and called their parents to tell them they were all right and would take the next bus home. As they got on the bus Josh thought, Wow! What a day. Maybe this was a little too much adventure for me for a day! Josh plopped down in the seat next to Eric, and smiled as they drove home.

When the World Becomes a Flame Connor Pickens

Connor Pickens, 13
Shakopee, Minnesota

When the World Becomes a Flame José Chardiet

José Chardiet, 13
New Haven, Connecticut

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