When I was a young boy, I was playing with a magnifying glass in a vacant lot next to my home. Using the concentrated power of the sun, I ignited the dry blades of grass and enjoyed watching them burn. I was completely oblivious to any danger I might have been creating.
Before I knew it, the grass exploded with flames and I found myself surrounded by fire. Homeowners came running over to the lot with shovels and began working to put out the blaze.
After the fire was extinguished, one particularly angry neighbor approached me and I remember feeling my stomach drop as I looked up at him. He was a tall, ominous figure of a man covered with sweat and holding a shovel like the staff of Moses. He taught me a lesson that day I shall never forget. He said, "Son, you could have burned down my home and hurt my family. Your careless actions put the entire neighborhood at risk." The way he looked at me and the sharp tone of his voice scared me. But the truth is, I needed to be scared.
After all the diligent efforts of my parents, this man was probably the first to break through a young boy's perimeter of ignorance and made me realize that my actions could affect others and that the world didn't revolve around me.
Wednesday afternoon, a young boy started a blaze in a vacant lot next to the apartment complex on West Frontier Street. Thanks to quick action by firefighters, the fast-growing blaze was controlled, but not until the flames had singed the adjacent apartment building. The boy is facing charges of arson and no doubt, like another scared boy I once knew, he has learned his lesson.
But there is another lesson to be learned by the community as a whole and this averted disaster should scare all of us.
The lot that sits next to the apartment in this case is littered with abandoned mattresses, couches, chairs and other trash. We now know that the property owners were warned by the town to get it cleaned up because it was a fire danger.
We also know the planning specialist was just out there the day before only to learn that nothing had been done.
Property owners need to be more responsible. Payson Battalion Chief Barker said, "Payson is tinder dry right now. We can't have trash around our town like this."
Now that I am a father and a homeowner, I would like to repeat the stern voice of chastisement I once heard to irresponsible property owners in the Rim country: "You could have burned down my home and hurt my family. Your careless actions put the entire neighborhood at risk."
Please, take action to clean up your property and make our community safer for everyone.