John, so by promising to light your car on fire you miraculously (and narrowly) raised $15,000 to save your house from the corrupt bank HSBC foreclosing on it, and all of this in less than 4 days? That is amazing. So why haven't you burnt the car yet?
I know, I know... this post will fill you in on all the gritty details.
I know in my original post that I promised in regards to lighting my car on fire that, "I will likely be arrested for the proposed adventure which will also be video taped and streamed live." However, after my crazy scheme actually worked, the reality of that statement set in. Getting arrested seemed like the worst thing I could do after borrowing $15,000, what with the accompanying fine, possible jail time and permanent ding to my record. So instead of just doing it then I set out to try and get permission to do it.
EASIER TO GET FORGIVENESS THAN PERMISSION
The above statement has been said to me and by me more times in the last two weeks than I can count. I always thought that this just meant that by asking forgiveness you got to do what you wanted which was worth the punishment.
What I have learned the past few days is that asking permission and getting told "no" and then doing it anyway, brings a far more severe punishment from the powers that be than just doing it without asking.
I tried going through the fire departments. I explained my experience in the beginning in this recent post a few days ago. Basically they said they wanted to help and that they thought they could do a training exercise with the car. However, they would have to check a few things and get back to me.
However, after a few days of not hearing from them I received the following email from the fire departments attorney:
This matter has been the subject of a significant amount of effort on the part of multiple officials within the Fire Department. We have been making a serious effort to accommodate what you should fully understand is a rather bizarre and unusual request. The logistics of what you have proposed are significant and we have been spending a fair amount of time dealing with those issues in order to facilitate this occurring. Despite these efforts, you have reacted by making unreasonable demands and have evidenced a complete unwillingness to recognize the Department’s concerns in allowing this to happen. Your blog posts have misrepresented the conversations you have had with the Fire Department and myself and characterized the Department’s attempts at cooperation as the opposite. The latest concept of placing advertising on the vehicle (without checking with me to determine whether this causes any legal problems for the Department, which it does) is yet another example of how you fail to recognize what you are asking for and the gravity of the situation. At this point, the Department is no longer willing to participate as it has become clear that you are not operating in good faith.
The Department urges you not to burn your vehicle as doing so is an inherently dangerous activity and you run the significant risk of injury (or death) to yourself and others as well as endangering property. You likely do not fully grasp what you are working with and will be held accountable for any actions you take."
Whoa... I have a who comentary on that response, but kind of ignored it because since it took more than 24 hours to get a response (I know my impatience is a vice) I went ahead and called every Fire Department within 50 miles of me.
I was greeted almost across the board with the same response. 1) Astonishment at my request. 2) A light finger shaking. 3) Them coming up with the idea, "We could use it in a training exercise. We burn cars all the time." 4) Them telling me they would have to talk to "legal" and get back to me. Sometimes they would go as far as sending me paperwork I needed to sign. 5) In every case they would get back to me with a "no".
So in every case they said no. That is, every case except for one. One department seemed unfazed and went so far as to schedule a time and place. With my consistent failure everywhere else I asked my contact there a couple of times if he was sure that "legal" had signed off. Then when I received the "Release of Liability" I figured it was legit. So, the day of the proposed event I started advertising the fire. I even got ABC to agree to stream it live on the internet. All of the major networks were planning on coming.
Side note: The paperwork was pretty cool with legalese like the following,
"...I know the risk of serious injury does exist. I, for myself and on behalf of my heirs and next of kin, HEREBY RELEASE, INDEMNIFY, AND HOLD HARMLESS [blah biddy blah department, it's officials, blah, blah, blah] WITH RESPECT TO ANY AND ALL INJURY, DISABILITY, DEATH, or loss..."
*Brackets added. CAPS not added.
I figure, one of two things happened after I posted the fire here on my blog. First, I may not have gotten to the top of the totem pole with this fire department. Which is why it seemed uncharacteristically easy. Once they were made aware of the event with the news cameras and everything the big boss came down and said, "No way." Or, second, another attorneys or chief/marshal of one of the other Fire Departments I was already told "No." by caught wind and decided to tattle. I'm leaning towards the latter of the two because one contact mentioned "I must have pissed of some people in some very high places."
Regardless, after I was told I could, and after I was sent the paperwork, and after I signed it and sent it back, I was told quite abruptly that I could not use the facility. That I could not donate my car for a Fire Department training exercise if it was going to be video taped or if I was going to be present or, heaven forbid, light the car on fire myself. The Fire Department went as far to send out the following press release:
"It has come to our attention that a Mr. Maxim may have contacted the media stating that Unified Fire Authority has offered to assist him in burning his vehicle. (because they did) He told local (This thing was a little bigger than local, I got loanations from as far away as England. This thing was international, thank you) citizens that if they helped him with his house payments (keeping him from foreclosure) that he would burn his car. Unified Fire Authority has denied (Now you tell me) Mr. Maxim our assistance at this time. It is my understanding that his plans were to use our training facility this evening located in Magna at 3950 S. and 8000 W. Please DO NOT keep this appointment if it has been scheduled as UFA will have no involvement with this event."I've never been called Mr. Maxim before... so, aside from ruining my night it was sort of flattering.
*Bold parenthesis added
My attempt to keep my promise in a controlled permitted seemed impossible. I spent another day trying to get a Fire Departments okay. No luck. So I decided to send one last email to the first Department I dealt with... since I secretly (until now) thought they tried to sabotage me. Mostly because I couldn't and still don't see what I did to piss anybody off, but that email seemed a little strong worded. I wrote:
"I am writing to see if there are terms by which “The Department” would help me out with my predicament. I have been fully aware of the bizarre nature of this request. I’m certain that when I first spoke with The Fire Marshall that I was the one who used the term “bizarre” to preface my tale. You are right in that I was not fully aware of the legalities surrounding what I am asking, neither did I fathom that there would be any legal consequences to advertising which is the only reason I did not ask. My blog posts have not misrepresented my conversations and I struggle to see how they shed a negative light on you or the department. I have done nothing but act in good faith, albeit ignorantly at times, but I am trying to fulfill my bizarre promise without causing trouble. I have been completely upfront with you and the Fire Marshal and everyone else from the beginning. So my question is, is there a scenario that The Department can propose where I will be able to burn my car?"To which I received this very succinct and clear response:
"I’ve spoken with the Chief and Fire Marshal and there is no scenario at this point in which the Department will participate."
I keep asking myself why is it so hard to light my car on fire. At first I was really mad at the Fire Departments for turning me down.
Ask your friendly neighborhood fireman if they've ever lit a car on fire. They will tell you yes. Ask them if there was gasoline involved. You'll probably get a "sometimes" or a "yes". Go ahead, ask them.
What I am asking is actually done all the time. So why the opposition? Liability, publicity, and regulation. Unfortunately Fire Departments are governed by a larger body, the National Fire Protection Agency or NFPA. After doing some reading I found out that no Fire Department in their right mind would light a car on fire with a video camera around. Because they are sure to break some pish-posh code or regulation of the NFPA. I went to their website and they offer the code to the public. However, to see it you have to register and agree not to copy paste or quote the blasted thing.
It's obvious that everyone I talked to wanted to help and find a safe way to make this happen, up until their lawyer cited some code or regulation they would be violation on film. So its hard to blame the Fire Departments for being lame once I see what they're up against. It's the NFPA that is forbidding me to light my car on fire.
So, what now?
It looks as though I will not get permission. I even tried calling the Burning Man event to see if they can help me. They suggested that if I removed the engine, the upholstery, the tires and scraped the paint off of the car that they would let me light it up... but that it would take a year. Ha ha, that was a totally serious conversation too.
Now, unless another opportunity presents itself, I will at an undisclosed place and an undisclosed time go to some remote location and light my car on fire and make every effort not to get caught. I will video tape it and put it on the internet for all to see afterwards. I will make this happen over the next 10 days.
I welcome all suggestions on remote/undisclosed locations where I will likely not get caught.