Tuesday, July 27, 2010


If I raise the $15,000 I need to save my house from foreclosure I WILL start my car on fire. I did raise the $15,000.00.

Now... maybe it isn't obvious that when I came up with this idea, I didn't really think things through. I was desperate, filled with adrenaline, and I never actually expected it to work.
It did work. In retrospect, I wish that as soon as I left the courthouse I would have just driven to a K-Mart parking lot (because those are always empty) parked the car, grabbed my bow and arrow, (I don't have a bow and arrow but my retrospect is usually mingled with imaginations) walked 40 paces lit an arrow on fire and shot it into the car. Which would then ignite into a magnificent burst of flames and black smoke (due to the gasoline I had splashed all over it).

I didn't do that. So now, things have gotten complicated. Here is what has happened:

I called a couple of fire departments here in Utah. I wasn't completely upfront with them at first. I just tried to get them to tell me what could and could not be done. I called all my friends who owned businesses and asked them if they wanted to let me burn my car on their property. No one wanted to do it unless there was permission from the local Fire Dept because they could get a ticket as the owner of the property.

Then I got a call from a local Fire Marshal. I'm not sure if my earlier attempts at covert intel were what tipped her off or if one of the TV News channels that had been constantly calling me to find out where the fire was going to take place had called her to get some information... whatever the case, there she was, and she knew what I was up to.

I explained to her about the miracle that had happened. I told her that I HAVE to burn my car.

Ms. Fire Marshal: If you light your car on fire you will get arrested.
John: Well, everyone keeps telling me that I'm not going to get permission so I should just go for the forgiveness route.
Ms. Fire Marshal: Who's everyone?
(I recognized that my answer wasn't going to have any legitimate sources in it and hesitated long enough for her to add)
Ms. Fire Marshal: You can't just light a car on fire, you don't want to be arrested for arson. Who's telling you that?
John: Just people on the internet and my blog you know the saying, better to ask forgiveness than permission. So you're right, I don't want to get in any trouble, here I am asking for permission or at least guidance. Can I do it on private property or get a permit or something.
Ms. Fire Marshal: Tell me how you want to do it.

I explained to her that I was obligated to do it for the many people who had loaned me money to save my house. I told her I knew it was crazy, but that the platform for my whole deal was built upon me lighting my car on fire. I told her that if she didn't help me do it I would still have to do it anyway.

I further explained that I needed it to be a show. That I was so grateful that I had raised the money that I needed to make a spectacle of it. That the people deserved it. I told her that I had to be the one lighting it on fire. She seemed understanding and said she would call back.

She did call back and proposed that we burn the car as part of a "training session". She said she would try to work out the whole me lighting it and that there would be "accelerants" used. That it would give my benefactors what they wanted and be safe. She told me I had to talk to legal, the city attorney, and sign some papers and stuff.

I told her I wanted to do it tonight. She told me that wouldn't be possible. She said best bet would be Friday, but that I would need to talk to the attorney.

Today I talked to the attorney. He told me that he wanted to help and sent me some waiver papers. When I asked him who I need to bug down at the fire department to get this done on Wednesday. He responded:

"I’ve been talking to people at the Department about it several times today. It is still under consideration as to whether it will go forward at all, so I don’t know that bugging them would be productive at this point. They are aware you want to do it tomorrow. I will keep you updated."

"...go forward at all"??? That just wont do.

Well the Fire Marshal said "arson" however I have looked into it a little bit more and I think she miss spoke there. Yes I may get arrested, but the counsel I've gotten is that it is definitely not arson. At worst I am looking at a "reckless burning" charge. I know that my mother will hate this but, the truth is, I am so grateful to the people that lent me this money that I will risk being arrested to make this happen. Call me stupid if you feel it's necessary, but a promise is a promise.

I have let the Fire department know, that with their permission or not, I will be lighting my car on fire Monday night.

I have had a few people upset that I actually intend on lighting my perfectly good car on fire. There has been talk that I should trade it with someone who has a broken down car. Someone in need. A couple of down and out single mommies were even volunteered. So, I thought that doing a trade might work. I called and talked to two of the volunteered women. After telling them about my car they have both decided that they would rather fix their broke-down cars and keep them.

After being rejected by those in need, I gave it some more thought.

Here is the thing about the car. It does work "perfectly" good for me, but... it is a piece of junk. The new transmission I put in it, just weeks ago was used. It is jumpy and needs to be replaced. Because it's used they have warranted the transmission, but not the labor. So it'll cost a few hundred dollars to fix it. It has 267000 miles on it, and it's a Ford, so there is no telling it's life span.

Secondly, I promised I would light MY car on fire. Part of the appeal is that it is a working car, a car I just put $900 into. All of the people saying, "Don't burn it, give it away." Those people are my friends and family. They would have lent me $20 if I wanted to light a Nintendo game on fire. The amazing truth is, the majority of my donations came from strangers, and most of them, responded that they want me to burn the car.

So, I am going to burn it. The 1993 Ford Escort is going up in flames... Monday Night, permission or not.

It occurred to me that there may yet be another angle here to play. The excitement and coverage of this thing keeps getting bigger. My blog is getting huge amounts of hits a day. Why not sell advertising spots on the car to my little show. It will be streamed live when it happens, and likely be replayed many times over. I could use the money paid by advertisers to pay those 387 individuals (who gave the precious loanations I needed to save my house) back almost immediately.

What do you guys think? I mean, it was a stunt in the first place is there a problem with exploiting a stunt?

After all the real story here isn't that I saved my house, and it isn't that I am lighting my car on fire, no, it's that a large group of strangers got together and gave, to help a guy in trouble out.


Jaime said...

You should totally exploit the stunt. I think it's brilliant. Much better than my idea of putting people's names on your car that didn't donate before torching it. :)

Steven said...


Vanessa said...

Thank you for saying all of this. I was one of the "give the car away" people that would have given you $20, regardless of what you light on fire.

But you're right. Part of the reason people were drawn to your cause is because you are willing to do some extavagant, reckless even, to say "thanks for helping a guy out".

Plus, as you've stated, it's not exactly a reliable car in the first place. Let's say you did give it away to someone in need. If it's only going to break down again soon, it would be a burden to them.

So, I've changed my mind. Give the people what they want. I'm just sad I won't be there to witness it myself.

Burn, baby, burn!!!

Anonymous said...

If I owned a business, I would buy a spot to advertise on the burning car.

joN. said...

obvious. mix up some homemade hollywood flammable gel and cover the top of the car with it. light it up. the car will burn for a half hour until the gel burns off, after that the car's still good as new (or as old as it already is)!

John said...

Maybe @oldspice would make a youtube video of it and give you a bunch of $$$

Seth said...

I gave $50.00 because I like longshots and extending trust towards people I barely know. I did not lend to watch the car burn. Do whatever you want with the car.

JulieN said...

Great idea! Earn while you burn!

Dave in PDX said...

I love the idea of selling ad space. Maybe you can get a local BBQ place or something similar to sponsor it?

Pat R said...

Only in my home town of Magna baby! I will be there. I would not miss it for the world! Brillant way to keep your home!