Editorial: Please, give this up

16:00, Dec 27 2013

Death by fire is said to be the most excruciatingly painful way to go.

It is not a hard claim to believe. Almost all of us will have experienced small burns at some time.

Invercargill police are investigating not one but two house fires that occurred on Christmas Day: one in Crinan St and one in Tay St. They may have been deliberately lit.

It is to be hoped that this horrible idea is wrong, that the fires were accidental. But it is feared that they were the work of one or more arsonists.

If so, this editorial is addressed to you.

Maybe you get a thrill from watching the smoke and flames. Maybe you get a thrill from watching all the excitement that follows, with big red fire trucks and police cars swarming the scene. Maybe you get a thrill from the publicity, knowing that you caused that big event on the front page that everyone is talking about.


Here are some further things that may thrill you:

Think about the pain of losing the possessions you most treasure. What do you own that you care about? Photos of family perhaps? A guitar? A beloved childhood toy? Think about how it would feel if someone came and took them away from you, and burned them in front of your eyes. Would you get a thrill from watching that?

Edward Blackburn, owner of the Crinan St house, lost six years' rennovation work. Do you like causing that kind of grief?

Were there animals in the house to which you set fire? Are you sure? Would you find it amusing, to watch a cat being burned alive? What sounds do you think it would make as its fur caught alight, as it frantically scrambles at the door, trying to escape. What does roasted cat smell like?

Would you get a thrill from listening to the sounds made by someone badly burned. Would the glint of their tears be as entertaining as the flicker of flames? Have you seen a face that has been scarred by burns?

And finally, think about the pain of an agonising death. Think about it hard. Imagine the flames burning your own flesh. Imagine the sensation of coughing and choking as the smoke fills your lungs, the panic as you cannot breathe, that there is no oxygen, that the hot air is burning you from the inside, even before the flames touch.

Because if you do this again, there is a good chance that there will be a death.

Arsonists kill people all too often, without meaning that this should happen. There was even a case early this year when an arsonist accidentally killed herself.

Of course, it is possible that you think you know what you are doing, that you have watched to see when no-one is at home.

But maybe the owner's elderly mum arrived during that two-minute period when you were getting a cold one from the fridge. She's taking a nap while her daughter goes out to get some milk for her cup of tea.

As a case in point, recall to your mind - if you are old enough - the Black Saturday bushfires in Australia, four years ago. Many were deliberately lit. They got out of control and killed 173 people.

The fires also destroyed over 2000 homes. A royal commission estimated the total cost of the Black Saturday bushfires at A$4.4 billion. That's $4.4 billion that could have been spent improving people's lives, and was instead spent just rebuilding them.

Imagine to yourself walking down a row of 173 corpses. Imagine 173 funerals, imagine how each of those families feel.

Stop now. Find some other way to get your thrills.


The Southland Times