Imagine you’re a homeowner in a heavily-wooded neighborhood, in a year when the rains have been few and far between. You’ve watched nervously as the local news covers area brush fires burning out of control, and you’ve tracked the burn on your online maps, and watched them get closer and closer. Then one afternoon, you see the smoke, off in the distance, and within an hour or so the flames themselves become visible. Where are the firefighters? you wonder.

Finally, they arrive, five engines and a score of men and women dressed in heavy slickers despite the oppressive heat. They pull up and rush from their vehicles to form a line between your home and the fire, and—just stand there. The fire gets closer, and still they stand, staring the flames down, but making no move to unfurl any hoses or uncap any hydrants. Now you can feel the heat of the approaching flames, and the firefighters slowly fall back. Inch by inch, foot by foot, the flames advance, and the firefighters retreat. At last, defeated, the flee to their engines and roar away, and you yourself have only seconds to escape, with just the clothes on your back and whatever you managed to throw in the car before the firefighters got there.

Down the road, you catch up with the useless fire crew and demand to know what the hell they were doing, and why they didn’t get out their hoses and fight the fire. And that’s when you find out: they were graduates of the Focus on the Family Fire Fighting Academy, and the only technique they were taught was, “Don’t play with matches.” So that’s what they were doing. They came to your home, and stood between you and the flames, and aggressively did not play with matches.

That’s not all they learned at the FFFFA, of course. They also learned that everyone is a natural pyromaniac, and that playing with matches leads to arson which leads to uncontrollable pyromania. They studied all the volunteer firefighters who were later discovered to be arsonists, and could tell you their names and which fire department they belonged to. They know all the children who died in fires started by some kid playing with matches. How to contain an existing fire, though, or how to start a properly-controlled back-burn, eh, not so much. The only sure way to prevent fire-related damage is not to start fires in the first place, so that’s the only technique they learned. Training people to put fires out only encourages them to think it’s safe to start them.

People can be devastated by the effects of uncontrolled wildfires, and so the FFFFA hopes that their program will soon become as popular as the sex ed curriculum on which it is based.


  1. wholething says

    Today, I was going in a different direction than you went. I expected to find that the firefighters were protecting the security of beliefs by fighting the fire with prayer while advancing the force of ontological and cosmological arguments against advancing knowledge.

  2. Lady Godfrey says

    When I shared this post on my FB, my daughter replied, “Tell me, what is the point of a fire-fighting academy? To learn how to fight fires. And whose job is it to educate people about not playing with matches? Smokey the Bear.”

    Isn’t she cute?

  3. smhll says

    I really want to compare teenage sexuality to lightning strikes. (Try legislating that, suckers!)

    How many forest fires are actually started with matches?

  4. Tige Gibson says

    They have a covert desire that certain classes of people should be allowed to lose their homes/get pregnant.

    Those “other” people, outsiders, will be forced to deal with the economic and emotional costs of losing their homes/getting pregnant.

    For people in their own class, insiders, it is justified to build a bigger home/family in-group. It is easier to indoctrinate children than to convince adults. The volunteer fire fighters probably spend far more time and resources building new homes for other volunteer fire fighters.

    And there is the additional benefit in that adults who are economically and emotional burdened/stressed are more easily lured/attracted to and kept by churches.

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