The Night I Lit My Back Yard on Fire…

I like to think I’m a fairly safety-minded guy, but as well having nearly blown up my house, I’ve also been known to set the back yard on fire. Unfortunately the back yard wasn’t in this hemisphere, and I didn’t even speak the language!

My wife and I had both secured contracts to work in South Korea for twelve months and so we packed up a bunch of stuff, sold the rest, and moved to Seoul. The biggest heartbreak was having to sell my BBQs: my first hooded four burner gasser with a rotisserie, and my very first ever BBQ, a little round camping gas BBQ that my Dad had given me when I first moved out of home. I loved that BBQ. I should see if I can track it down and get it back. It was a pig of a thing to cook on, but I have some great memories with that thing!

Anyway, one of the first things I had to do, naturally, was buy a BBQ, and it was actually kind of difficult. Most people in Korea live in apartment buildings with enclosed balconies, which makes BBQ’ing difficult, so BBQ’ing at home is not as popular in Korea as it is in Australia.

That said, the Koreans have found a great solution: Kalbi. You might have seen this. Restaurants cut a hole in a table, plonk in a pot of charcoal with a grill on the top and hey presto: Kalbi! Fortunately, my wife and I had found an apartment on the ground floor which had a little yard, so I had to insist on buying a BBQ in order to ‘save money on eating out’!

The only BBQ I could find (keeping in mind that my Korean is not good enough to shop online) was a little charcoal bbq. And this was six years before I learned how to use a charcoal bbq properly. Luckily they had instantly flammable circular things that looked like compressed sawdust. I shudder to think what chemicals it actually had in it: you’d just hold a lighter to it and up she’d go.

Back Yard 1

So it was Autumn, or given that Korea is in the Northern Hemisphere, I think I’d be forgiven for calling it ‘Fall’. Now, in Australia we are blessed with a majority of trees that are evergreen, but this is not the case in Korea. Once summer is over, everything dies. Which means that there were lots of dry leaves in my back yard. I don’t know what type of tree they were from, but they looked like big Canadian maple leaves.

So I lit my little round hot-block thing, and went inside to have some nice icy-cold Tsingtao beer, the only beer I found in Korea that didn’t give me massive skin rash allergic reactions and waited for the BBQ to be ready. My wife said ‘Are you sure that’s safe with all the leaves out there?’ to which I of course replied ‘Yes honey, everything’s fine.’ Ten minutes later my wife starts screaming for me to get a bucket of water. We didn’t own a bucket…

I turned and looked out the window to see these giant maple leaves, blazing on fire, swirling around in a little eddy out in the back yard. I pulled on my boots, grabbed a broom and went tearing out the back. I can’t imagine what kind of idiot I looked like, but I was running around the yard swatting these burning leaves out of the air with the broom and stomping them out, all the while trying desperately not to get burned by rest of them, still swirling in the eddy. Fortunately I was able to get them all out before any damage was done but I was really lucky.

My wife has never let me live it down, but man, the pork chops that night were the best I’ve ever had!

What near misses have you had? Let me know in the comments below!

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