I glanced at the TV screen and saw a burning
house. The crowd was shouting and pointing to the
fire. I switched the channel and read a subtitle in
Malay "Tembak! Tembak!" - the Malay word for
"Fire! Fire!" Before I could say anything, the imp
of my brother called out, "Got you there! Shoot!" Of
course, "fire" could mean "shoot" in another context.
Reading a dialogue in the papers, this sentence popped out, "I will fire you if ...." Fire in this case
means to be sacked. The word fire has different
meanings depending on the situation.
The history of fire will take us back to the days of
the cavemen who lived in fear of wild animals or who
ate raw meat or uncooked plants. Later, they used
"fire" to survive the dangers of the wild and the cold.
Heat from the sun was harnessed to make fire. From
here, man progressed to man-made fires. These
were made from natural materials like wax, kerosene
and gas. With a mere flick of a switch we now get a
lighted stove that burns from gas or electricity.
Fire has made life more comfortable as the
fireplace keeps the bones and body warm in winter.
Food can be cooked and need not be consumed raw.
Strange that when man has discovered the power
of fires to cook food, some people have decided to
revert to eating "raw" food. The Japanese like to eat
their seafood raw. We have the meat eaters who like
their steak to be cooked "rare" or "medium rare" or
Then there is the barbecue and satay or having
food grilled on open charcoal fire. We can also have
baked or roasted meat by cooking over fire. Have
you ever been to a campfire? Boy Scouts, girl
guides, cubs and rangers have wonderful memories
of their camping days, sitting around and singing and
cooking over a campfire. Watching the logs crackling
and the flinders and ash flying into the air and the
night filled with the happy chatter and laughter makes
for memorable school times.
Then what about the fires that are so huge
that they destroy without mercy. A house on fire, a
building on fire or even forest fires lick and eat up
everything in its path. No fire victim could ever forget
the uncontrollable fear of being caught in a fire and
they will relive the nightmares of a fire over and over
again. We can tame fire to serve our human needs
but a fire that is allowed to blaze away, uncontrolled,
heightened by the forces of nature like hurricanes,
tornados and whirlwinds can destroy precious lives
Yet, knowing the force of fires, man has been
known to play with fire. The ordinary matchstick, the
one touch lighter, the gas flame, the burning candle,
the lighted cigarette when used wisely, is man's friend
but abused or misused can become man's worst