Edited to include: The following is a work of fiction written for Magpie Tales.
Flames snapped and crackled, and sap sizzled from a tree too near the heat. The brilliance of the fire lit up the night sky for miles around. As the crowd gathered, people began to speculate as to what caused the old building to suddenly go up in flames. It had been abandoned for twenty years or so, ever since the mill closed. The owner had died shortly before, and when they closed the doors, many of the towns people were left with no income. Lately, though, there were signs that someone had been living there. It was assumed to be a homeless family, and given the hard times, no one thought anything about it. Live and let live, they said.
The fire department was on the scene quickly, but the dry timbers burned out of control. “I hope there was no one in there” said the chief. “There’s no way they could have gotten out after the fire started”. Acrid smoke filled the air and stung the eyes and burned the throats of the fire fighters, and the intense heat pushed them back. All they could do now was to keep the fire from spreading.
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After hours of raging, the fire burned itself out leaving smoldering chunks of wood and twisted metal of the machinery left behind. When it was deemed safe to investigate, officials walked through the ruins. Fortunately, they found no bodies, although no cause of ignition was determined. What they did find startled them. Among the ashes were the burned-out remnants of a family's makeshift home, and the only things to miraculously escape the searing flames were a well-worn Bible, a gold cross and an old fire extinguisher.
Written for Magpie Tales #23.