Friday Fictioneer 100 Word Story #10: Forest Fire

Forest Fire

The light from the distant fire is lovely, a golden hue infusing everything around with a glow that seems to come from within. The forest is strangely quiet, peaceful; sounds echo to you faintly, like a child in an afternoon nap. While the fire is far away, the sweet scent, like bread baking, fills you with a feeling of comfort and security.

Suddenly, you find yourself standing in the middle of the shallow river, searing heat burning your lungs, dead fish floating past belly up, heavy machines grinding and roaring, trees crackling and exploding in sparks.



  1. The second paragraph really has some great imagery. I did have a jarring moment though, when it felt like it switched to 2nd person. When I started reading, in my head it was 3rd person, and then the second paragraph seems to change. (It doesn’t really, that’s just how I read it.)

    I was really struck by the “sweet scent…of bread baking” as a description of the fire. Very evocative! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Your prose just gets more gorgeous every Friday. I especially liked the smell of bread baking and the peaceful sounds echoing to you faintly like a baby in a nap!

    The contrast with the roar and smash and the fish floating by belly up is terrific.
    Well done!

    P/S. Tell Craig to save Rascal!

  3. Very dramatic calm-before-the-storm approach, Carlos. I could almost feel myself standing in the quiet place when all of a sudden the urgent reality crashed in.

    For a stronger first sentence (and I know, this will even make your word count lower) I would rephrase “The light from the distant fire is lovely,” to “The distant firelight is lovely,” only to get rid of the second ‘the’ and get you off to a smoother start.

    • Hi Madison, thanks for that suggestion. I spent more time on this story than any other, rewriting it over and over. It was something that I wanted to do, to really work on something, hone it down. It’s funny, one reason for doing it was that I wanted to write something different from what I usually do, but I still ended up writing a story with the same shape.
      It does come from a childhood memory and throughout my life I thought the light when there was a distant forest fire was beautiful and golden. There were many fires where we were and when I was a kid, many were started by the locals in order to get work on the fire lines.

  4. Wow, you put me front and centre in this one. I really felt like I was there – and feeling like I’m there is about as close as I ever want to get to a forest fire! Oddly enough, as someone with no experience of such disasters, jumping into a lake or river would be my first thought. Judging by all the dead fish, and assuming depth is irrelevant, that would not work out well!

    Here’s mine:

    • Thanks, Joe. I do like spare, clean writing and I’m discovering how much in the writing of these stories. It’s literary psychotherapy; a good learning experience. Your story was really good this week, I enjoyed it very much. I know some other people that were in the Berkeley hills for that fire, a terrifying experience; the first urban forest fire, I believe.

  5. I’ll share a true story: I was camping with my family and a fire came up on the ridge. Even though the determination was made that we were safe to stay the night, feelings of security went out the window. People woke up all night long to check on the fire. So, forgive me, I loved the contrast between paragraphs but wondered if something like (trying to use as many of your words as I can):

    The sweet scent of trout grilling fills you with a feeling of comfort and security.

    would jive better?

  6. Hi Robin,
    That’s your story – but it’s not mine. We fished for trout everyday up there, I loved trout for breakfast, with eggs, but I feel very sorry now because we caught fish for sport, a contest, many more than we needed. I realise now it was the beauty and solitude of the fishing I loved, not the catching and killing of the fish. In my experience, I don’t associate the grilling trout smell with comfort and security. Baking bread is a smell I do associate with that even though we didn’t bake bread there; I have myself, much later. But there is something in that bread smell that is similar to a fire far away.
    BTW, I liked your story a lot this week — the list was a fantastic invention!

    • Yeah, I knew I was flavoring my comment with my own experience. Sorry about that. I really just wanted you to know that that feeling of security, so important for your story, didn’t root for me in bread baking, a sense memory, when all of your attention is on the here and now — how far away is the fire now?

      If you hadn’t pressed back, I wouldn’t have figured why I made the comment, so thanks!

      • Not to be sorry! An interesting conversation… it was all a memory for me, though drawn from different times. There was a time we stood in the river while the fire crew sprayed our cabin with water, but there were many times when everything had that beautiful look because there was a fire somewhere. The bread – just a way to describe the musty, slightly burnt smell of a fire far away but upwind. There were many beautiful things there: the fishing piece I wrote a while ago came from a memory of that place too. The mountains of Northern California.

  7. Wow, Carlos. You really captured the feeling of fire, from near to far, and with increasing tension as it “approached.” Excellent use of the senses–sight, sound, scent, touch.

  8. Dear Carlos,

    My apologies for not getting here sooner. i wish I had, for your story is one of the best in a solid list of deserving nominees.

    When you shifted gears and I found myself in that shallow river I was cheering for you because you so nailed it. What a great move into peril and chaos. Even the lack of depth to the river added to the feeling of danger. Reminded me of stories of the citizens of Hiroshima all dead in the rivers. No help there if they’re not deep enough.

    An excellent foray into the burning night, Carlos.



    • Thanks, Doug, very much. I’ve had a correspondence with Robin Hawke about all of this too. It is, of course, built of memories, and the river was a shallow river running down the middle of a wide bed of rocks, granite mostly. Standing in the river was the only place to get out of the forest. If it had been a deep river in a narrower channel we’d be floating away! But that’s the fact, not the fiction.

  9. The baking bread…there is a town next to mine that has a bread factory and a coffee factory…and it has the heady smell of baking bread and the burn of coffee beans, but the mixture smells like a fire. I don’t know if you knew this, but your drabble instantly brought that smell to my nose.


    The links to my drabbles are:

  10. What a transition — magnificent. I had a busy weekend that prevented me from getting around to the stories as soon as I would have liked, but I’m glad I got here. Both the first and second paragraph evoke such an intense sense of place and are so distinct. Beautiful.

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