The Devil’s In The Details

Everyone makes mistakes and hopefully we learn through those mistakes.  The great thing is mistake learning is just as valuable when we learn from the mistakes of others.  Here’s one of mine to remind you that “The Devil’s in the Details.”

aSomething unexpected happened when the Salina Fire Marshal retired. Instead of promoting a replacement, the Deputy Chief absorbed the duties – me being the Deputy.

Three Inspectors and a Public Educator would ensure that my lack of a prevention background wouldn’t lead to a catastrophe. Or would they?

The City of Salina has the Smoky Hill River Festival each summer during the first week of June. Planning for the festival is almost non-stop, so it wasn’t unusual to meet with organizers in early January.

During the organizational meeting the group discussed a burn display by a California artist. We were told, “The details will follow.”

Five months later an Inspector walked into my office. With a look of shock upon his face he asked me, “Have you seen the gigantic “Ring of Fire” prop over at the Smoky Hill River Festival?” He went on to explain the enormity of the prop.

“It’s like the world’s biggest doughnut! Before they stuffed the chicken wire frame structure with straw you could’ve held dune buggy races in it. And as we speak the Californians are dousing the straw with diesel fuel.”

A good Fire Marshal would’ve followed up long ago to get the “details that didn’t follow.” So, what to do now? It was too late to simply cancel.

Mother Nature pitched in with heavy winds that night. I was like an umpire calling the game on account of lightning – and about as popular. The game would take place the next day – during daylight.

That next day we sent over enough water power to put out the “Great Chicago Fire.” Two pumpers and one aerial truck – all connected to fire hydrant water supply. At any moment the firefighters could have instantly turned the Ring of Fire into Noah’s Ark.

111At the city staff meeting the following week festival organizer Martha brought me a token reminder – a cupcake with burning candles. It left an everlasting impression.

Whenever I see a cupcake, I remind myself, “The Devil’s in the Details.”

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