Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: A Forest Ablaze

indies unlimited flash fiction challenge
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Use the photograph above as the inspiration for your flash fiction story. Write whatever comes to mind (no sexual, political, or religious stories, jokes, or commentary, please) and after you PROOFREAD it, submit it as your entry in the comments section below. There will be no written prompt.

Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture at left. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. No political or religious entries, please. Need help getting started? Read this article on how to write flash fiction.

On Wednesday, we will open voting to the public with an online poll so they may choose the winner. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday. On Saturday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature.

Once a month, the admins will announce the Editors’ Choice winners. Those stories will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted. See HERE for additional information and terms. Please note the rule changes for 2018.

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16 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: A Forest Ablaze”

  1. Donut Holes

    At supper tonight, I said, “Boy, you won’t believe the mean thing Mrs. Shaw did today.

    Gramps said, “What did she do?”

    “Paulie Dent brought a whole box of donut holes to for the class to share before we went out for lunch recess, and Mrs. Shaw wouldn’t let anybody have any.”

    “Was it because there weren’t enough to go around?”

    “He had a whole box full!”

    “Maybe she thought they were stale and moldy.”

    “Paulie showed her the receipt. His mom bought them this morning.

    Gramps said, “I never heard of kids having to worry about donut holes. Old people like me are always talking about whether or not they’re already in the donut hole, or if they think they’ll ever be in the donut hole.”

    I don’t understand what Gramps is talking about, but I know better than to ask him because once he starts explaining something, he’ll stop eating and just keep talking, and every once in a while, he’ll say, “You know,” and I’m not sure if that’s a question I’m supposed to know the answer to. So, one thing I know for sure is, that unless he says, “What do you think,” I should ignore his, “You know.”

    Meatloaf is one of my favorite dinners and I’m glad to have this pleasure as Gramps finishes whatever donut hole he’s riled up about.

    Dad starts right up. “I can’t do anything about that donut hole, but I’m going to start digging after supper to make our donut hole bigger.”

    “We’re going to get a big donut hole! Wow, when will it be ready to eat?”

    “I hate to disappoint you son, but the donut hole I’ll be making isn’t the kind you can eat. Our donut hole will be where our house is inside a dirt path. The ring of dirt, will keep the forest fire that’s burning toward us away from the house.”

    My little brother said, “But dad, if fire can get in the house, it will be good because our popcorn ceiling will finally pop. We will have so much popcorn, we won’t have to buy any for a year.”

  2. Roger wiped the tears from his eyes. The heat from the dancing flames felt glorious. He reached into his pocket, enjoyed another swallow from his pint of Bourbon, and raised it in salute to the beautiful sight before him. Clouds of grey smoke engulfed the trembling trees ahead.

    He flipped the empty container into the flames and drove off to the next chosen forest. His foot pressed down on the pedal. The highway was deserted at three in the morning. He could drive as fast as he liked. He watched the smoke from his efforts reflected in the rear view mirror, and smiled. Tin cans of gasoline in the truck’s bed clinked and clanked.

    There it was. The majestic trees stood proudly at the entrance to the national forest.
    Just a mile or two more, he thought, as he searched for the remote spot he chose weeks before. He pulled off he road, unloaded a can of gasoline and poured it on the drying bushes at the base of the trees. Running back to his truck, he struck a match and dropped it onto the liquid trail. He turned to climb into his truck to get to the next forest, and slipped on the step. His head cracked on the dashboard.

    The roaring flames reached out, engulfing the truck. It exploded into smithereens when it reached the gasoline cans.

    A letter, declining his fifth application for Probationary Firefighter, fluttered from the glove compartment and burst into flames.

  3. Prometheus stood on the mountain peak and looked at the vista opened before him. “I, Prometheus, will give to man the gift of fire, to raise him above the lesser animals of the earth. What greater gift than this can be given to those who dwell in wretched darkness.”

    His female companion, Asia, held his arm. “Oh, great Prometheus. You know I love you. But your desire to give the gift of fire to man will be your undoing. Do you not know mighty Jove has forbidden you to do this?”

    Prometheus looked into the Asia’s beautiful eyes. “My fair love,” he said touching her cheek. “How I adore you so. You have been with me forever. But without fire man will be left desolate and miserable. I swear that no phantasm or power shall come between me and my ability to render this precious gift to man.”

    “Oh, my love. I fear for you,” she said looking up at Prometheus. “You have forethought. Can you not see what will happen?”

    “I can see,” he said. “But my destiny is greater than the life of any Titan.”

    So, Prometheus gave to man the gift of fire. For this act of disobedience he was chained to the Caucasus Mountains; to endure a miserable existence forever.

    And the fire (knowledge) he gave to the world burned the living greenery of the earth as intensely as it did in the hearts and minds of man.

  4. Flame-out

    At some point, after the Minister flew over the inferno, a decision no one wanted anyone to make was discussed.

    “A million acres, I figure,” Lawrence Napier, the Head Forester, estimated.

    “It could be worse?” the Minister asked.

    “It could always be worse, Sir,” the Forester replied. “And I don’t want to offer any false hope. A giant backfire could very well…”

    “Backfire!” the Minister said, “It’s well named, isn’t it?”

    “Yes Sir. In any case, this case, this situation, if you approve, will require a strong stomach. Iron cast resolve. Two small towns will have to be evacuated.”

    “And sacrificed?”

    Heads nodded. Some, even as they concurred, could see enough into the future that these same heads, their precious heads, nodding now in grim agreement with a reasonable yet singularly controversial bureaucratic decision, might very well be rolling into the basket of Guillotine discord later.

    As it happens sometimes, there was a leak. There is often a disclosure when provocative decisions are being made. The motive of the whistleblower can be any one of a hundred intensions.

    Frequently, self preservation is the intent.

    No one wants to wear the cloak of monumental cataclysm, even if it serves the greater good.

    The press stormed the legislature, seeking the Minister, hunting him down, finding him eventually in a government washroom.

    “IS IT TRUE?” they screamed at the Minister. “IS IT TRUE you will burn down two whole communities?”

    It was true.

    The press had their story.

    And the towns burned.

  5. The druids tried to help me, but help me they cannot. It has always been a sorry fate, that of I, the desolate spirit that resides within this forest. Every time I wake, I cry for aid and when the druids hear me, they put me right back to sleep. Oh what I’d give for a voice, for a moment to say, to scream out my name … I am not the earth, I am not the trees, I am the passion of fire!

    But as with all things, my patience too comes to an end. If I cannot burn, if I cannot see to the lands which I am owed, then I shall to those who stop me. I will burn inside their hearts and they will burn in my stead all the world which they have known, all which I was not allowed to see. For I come not with the fury of bad heart but the fury of revenge.

  6. The Forest Fire by N.T. Franklin

    There wasn’t supposed to be a fight. Not with the woman you were going to marry.

    I saw her my first day at the University in an Ecology course. I was in love. Straight blond hair down to the small of her back. She must have brushed it 100 times to get that shine. Her friends called her Mary. I called her My Love.

    Friday class was the best time of the week. The first month flew by dreaming of forevers. University was different. High School girls made fun of me when I went to the Prom alone after twenty girls turned me down. I still had a ring and a written proposal.

    Then the professor announced that class would be at the University Forest next week. The class was divided into small groups. I wasn’t in My Love’s group, but that didn’t matter. I joined her group, as we were meant to be together. When the group became dispersed, my opportunity came.

    “Excuse me, you should see the tracks down this trail.”

    She followed me, and when we were alone, I dropped to a knee, opened the ring box, and started my proposal.”

    “What? No! Creep! Get away from me!”

    She stumbled when I grabbed her leg, and said, “Sicko.”

    “Sicko”was the last thing she ever said. The rock was in my hand. The fire should cover up the crime. Maybe University girls are like High School girls. I hope the other students escape the forest fire.

  7. He saw it first from the middle of Springhill Road, a plume of heavy smoke fighting the sun for dominance in the hot summer sky. Squinting, he pinpointed the “where.” He looked again. Panic seized his brain—took over the steering wheel—mashed the accelerator. Trees and thickets on the side of the road blurred with speed. The car wobbled, threatening to plunge into the forest.
    Just ahead, volunteer firemen—a phalanx of first responders–were putting axes and hoses back in their truck. “Let ‘er go,” the chief said. “In fifteen minutes it’ll burn clean through t’other side. It’ll be one less place we gotta fight later this summer.”
    The man leaped from his car before it came to a stop. It rolled into the side of the fire truck, narrowly missing a young firefighter. “Hey, you dumb jerk! What the hell were you thinking?”
    Weaving through the stunned firefighters, ignoring their shouts of “Stop!”, the man plunged into the flames. Instantly, like a large orange and yellow beast, the fire devoured him, closing in quickly around the empty space. His screams became a high whine, then silence except for the crackle of burning wood.
    The chief pushed back his helmet and shook his head “Didja see that? The nut case ran right into the flames. What in the name of heaven could be so important that he’d die for it?”
    In less than fifteen minutes, the entire nation would know the terrifying answer.


  8. Declan was still not at peace with the divorce, and he would not let her leaving spoil his summer vacation. He chose a campsite well away from the families of boaters that clogged the park this time of year.
    He popped the Eurovan’s touring top and sat with his evening coffee staring at a field of wild oats before a backdrop of Douglas fir. He noticed birds and mammals moving across the field, all coming from the tree line. The air had the smell of burning timber. He knew most fires were on the western side of the Rockies, but the smoke carried east.
    He slept but woke around four am to the sound of the smoke detector she bought him a few years back. He opened the door to a rush of acrid smoke. Slipping on his sandals, he grabbed a torch and stumbled his way down the narrow drive to the boat launch.
    Anxious campers were near the main dock talking to a park ranger. Sparks flew and loud crackling could be heard beyond a pall of smoke. Suddenly, the tall stand of fir trees began igniting, like candles at a vesper service. The panicked crowd ran into the lake, swimming away from the shore and clinging to anything that would float.
    Declan considered the power of the fire’s destructive force and its hallucinogenic colors. He heard prayers of thanksgiving and hope, but could only think of her and how he wished she was here.

  9. Phil exited the rural road turning on to the camp ground dirt road. He flicked his cigarette butt out the sedan window and muttered, “Who cares if there’s one more cigarette butt in the roadside trash?” Then complaining to Morris, “It’s all those paper coffee cups and lunch bags that’s the real litter. They really have to do something about all those fast food places.”

    Half awake, Morris yawned while nodding his head yes, and then dozed off again. Phil nudged Morris good and hard. “Owe! Why’d you hit me, Phil? You said I could sleep until we got there!”

    “We’re there.” Phil sharply replied as he purposely jerked the sedan to a stop in a gravel parking space. “Stop complaining and get the car unpacked that was the deal. Remember we got the same campsite as last year. I gotta check in with this here ranger.”

    He slipped another cigarette between his lips just in time for the ranger to yank it out, “Phil, I told you last year, no smoking or campfires allowed. It’s the dry season, this here valley is a tinder box waiting to go up.”

    Grinning sarcastically, Phil walked away muttering, “Now ain’t that a crying shame.”

    Late that day smoke was spotted near the campground entrance. The rangers found a single cigarette butt where the fire started. The arson forensic team identified the DNA and matched it to one of the roasted camp ground victims.


    Ruth knew there was a burn ban. The ban was until 6 p.m. and it was almost dark. She thought she could burn the trash. The fire had gotten away from her. She and Sam were using blankets to try to beat down the flames.

    The small volunteer fire department was on its way. Sam had called them before he ran out to help her. The fire was heading toward the forest behind their house. There were homes back there. Families, children, wildlife.

    “Sam, I don’t hear any sirens yet,” Ruth screamed.

    ”You know they’re all ten or more miles away. We have to keep it at bay until they can get here,” Sam replied over the increasing roar of the fire.

    Ruth and Sam were both members of the fire department. They couldn’t leave the blaze long enough to get their fire-fighting equipment. Ruth knew they could stop the fire on the ground with their equipment, but she had just seen it jump to the top of a tree.

    The volunteers started pulling in the driveway, putting on their gear as they jumped out of their cars. Someone got the pair’s gear out of the house.

    The fire was roaring through the underbrush, advancing fast.

    “We have to build a berm to try to stop this,” Sam said.

    ”It’s too hot. You can’t get in there,” someone screamed at him.

    Sam grabbed a shovel and went in. Just as he did, the fire took on new life and overtook him.

  11. Bernard was a dedicated writer. Not a good writer, just a dedicated writer. He cranked out story after story, totally oblivious to the outside world.

    He could click away at his computer, secreted in his mountain cabin, while the world fell apart. The children Bernard had fathered could be murdering their babysitter. His electricity could be disconnected for nonpayment. Terrorists could have bombed the capital. None of these events were earth-shattering enough to make Bernard aware of the world around him. Not when his hero, Egbert, was about to leap from his plane, which was headed straight for the mountain, which was engulfed in flames, to rescue his heroine, Daphne.

    Bernard glanced at the cabin window. And he saw flames. Racing down the mountain. Roaring and crackling. Terrifyingly real. Bernard was thrilled that he could imagine such an inferno. He even felt the heat.

    Then his front door flew open. His neighbor, Floyd, hollered, “Get out, Bernie. The fire…” He grabbed Bernard and shoved him into his car. Other than the glorious inferno that he had imagined, complete with searing heat, Bernard was only dimly aware that anything was going on.

    Bernard’s computer was a laptop, and he continued to click away as Floyd drove them to safety, His story was complete. Braving the flames, Egbert had rescued Daphne. The End.

    Bernard thought this story was his best ever. He was particularly proud of how vividly he had imagined the fire.

  12. A Forest Ablaze

    We lifted our champagne glasses high, toasting to the cruise of a lifetime. Sam and I had saved and scrimped for this trip. Our lives were perfect together. Our home is a delightful fairytale cottage high atop a bluff that overlooks the heavily forested canyon below. We had built the cottage right after we got married. We had just enough money to buy the land and as we built our home, we lived in a tent. Later we raised the little ones in that tiny cottage and when they became older they moved out into the tent until they truly moved on to their own lives.

    So here we were. Just the two of us. Celebrating our lives together. The ship pulled away from the port. . As we lifted our glasses again the cell phone rang out its tune. “Yes?” His eyes grew big and somber as he listened. “Thank you for calling. There is nothing to be done. We’ll deal with everything when we get home, uh…when we get back. Bye.”

    I waited. Sipping the champagne. When he looked at me our eyes met and I saw deep sorrow inside this man I love. He said one word. “Fire.”

    I could see it all in my head. The fire roaring through the trees. The heat reaching our home and passing by, leaving nothing but memories. It was all gone. Gone.

    His hand reached out to take my glass. Placing it on the table. His arms went around me, holding me tight. I felt his warmth comforting me. And it dawned on me…we still had each other. I looked up into his face and smiled. “I love you. It’s going to be okay.” He smiled back and I leaned my head on his chest.

  13. Buried Treasure

    “My NUTS !”

    “Jason, you idiot. It’s a fire — my gosh it’s growing and headed this way !!”

    “But we’ve saved for an entire year. And we need the food to last through the winter. ”

    “Well you fool…unless you don’t want to be around to see the winter, we’d best get the heck out of here. Now !!”


    “Now’s the time — run or get cooked. Your choice. But I’m outta here.” They both scampered away.

    Park rangers fought the conflagration for five days, eventually extinguishing it.

    Jason and Elsa cautiously returned to their home.

    Rooting around through the rubble and ashes, Jason found his treasure.

    “Hmmm…roasted chestnuts. Not bad, not bad at all.”

    Winter came and went. As the annual Santa Ana winds of spring began to sweep down the canyon walls, Jason was confident.

    He had learned squirrel crisis management. Yet again.

  14. Lilly watched the fire burn. It burned down their house, shed, and now the forest.

    She watched her husband Scott work furiously, with the firemen, to dig trenches.

    She had watched him for two years build the house, with only primitive tools.

    Now, to see it all go up in smoke…!

    Scott walked over, his face covered in sweat and soot, “That’s it, we’re done! There’s nothing left,” he said, throwing the shovel.

    “This was an experiment… to live off the grid. We weren’t going to be here forever,” she reasoned.

    “Why? Why was this snatched away from us? ” he yelled, kicking the pine needles.

    “We’re young, we can do this again. It was hard, but look how much you’ve learned.”

    ” Yes…to respect static electricity,” he said, his voice bitter, “Forget it, I’ll just go back to my office job.”

    Just then, a firefighter pointed to the sky,and yelled,”Snow!” They both looked up in astonishment.

    “Scott, I know you’re angry, but life does have happy accidents. I’ve been wanting to tell you, but the timing wasn’t right… we’re going to have a baby!”

    “No! Not now…!” he bellowed.

    “Yes,now! she shouted back,” This is life! We have to live it now,and one day when you tell our kids this story, you are not going to tell them you quit!”

    ” I’m not a quitter,” he said, pulling her into an embrace.

    ” No, me either.”

    “Our kids aren’t going to be quitters…”

    ” No, way…” she agreed.

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