I still remember it as if it happened in slow motion. The lit match drifted through the air, landing on the gasoline-soaked stump. Then this immense wave of heat passed over me. Then everything was on fire.

I stood there for a moment in shock and then did the only logical thing I could think of: I ran for the hose.

Have you ever tried to put out a chemical fire? If you have, you know that water is just about the last thing you should put on it. All it does is spread the fire around.

So there I was, spraying water like a madman, spreading the fire across the backyard. I imagine my mom sitting with her back to the window, watching television, as her son and the voice in his head burn down Southern California.

Amazingly, I did not burn down the state, or even the yard. After a good soak by California's youngest amateur firefighter, the blaze was out.

I turned off the hose, breathing hard, and thanked God I'd averted disaster. As the sound of my heartbeat faded from my ears, it was replaced by a tiny, distant, terrifying sound.

It was the popping crackle of something on fire.