That was before we got the "permanent - almost life-like, already-has-light-strands-on- it Christmas tree." We had a 1 and 1/2 story living room and as a result, had a huge 12' real pine tree that year. We were cleaning up and took the tree out to the street for refuse pick-up. We had gotten the tree early in the season and it had dried out considerably, leaving a trail of dried pine needles everywhere.
So, this particular Christmas morning, I swept them all up and stuffed them in a big paper grocery bag. The garbage can was already full of paper and boxes and had I had no place to put the pine needles. Then I spied the fireplace. "Why not?" I had been camping before...should be a piece of cake. Obviously, it was a functioning fireplace, the needles were flammable...seemed like a no-brainer. The key phrase here is "no-brain."
Everyone was still in their PJ's and bathrobes, it was a cold wintery December morning outside and I thought it would be exceptionally quick way to warm up the house. I placed the bag in the fireplace, lit the match and stepped back to observe my grand vision of a warm glow from the fireplace.
It was more like a bomb. Two things were very wrong. The paper bag full of highly combustible pitch-coated pine needles exploded like a bomb in a huge fireball. Oh, yes, AND the fireplace flue was closed. Tons of flames and smoke and nowhere to go, except out of the fireplace into the living room. I tried using a metal fireplace poker to open the flue, but only succeeded in burning all the hair off my arm. Smoke filled the house. Ear piercing fire alarms started blasting. Everybody came running into the living room with their hands over their ears and not being able to take it anymore, ran out of the house into the front yard to hang with the neighbors that had come outside to see what was going on.
I finally got the flue open, and after opening all the windows, got the smoke out of the house, the alarm finally shut off, assured the alarm company to not send the fire trucks, got the people back inside and got to listen the post-stupid lecture from everyone about why that was not a good idea. Life's lessons are instant and impressive. I got it.