Authorities across the state of Texas are becoming increasingly concerned by the alarming number of occurrences of spontaneous combustion. While the process of objects bursting into flames in the absence of a source for ignition is scientifically controversial, it appears to be a fact in the Lone Star State this summer, reaching epidemic proportions. The object of the phenomenon has varied, ranging from lawn ornaments to a human being, but the resulting ball of fire and charred remains has been consistent.
The first confirmed case involved a Chia Pet in Tuscola, whose tenure on the front porch of Hyrum Gotcher had far surpassed its status of being green, growing, and delightful. According to Taylor County Sherriff Les Bruce, the dried out terracotta hippopotamus burst into flames at approximately 5:30 p.m., destroying a significant portion of the adjacent mobile home. Damage was estimated to be approximately $738. Gotcher reported noticing flickers emanating from Jesse (his name for the pet) in the days leading up to the combustion, but dismissed them as hallucinations caused by his medication for chronic fatigue syndrome. "I dang sure won't make that mistake again", he stated, adding: "next time something starts flickering at me it's getting doused with whatever liquid I happen to be holding in my hand at the time".
In West Texas, the collateral damage from a potentially devastating combustion in Rankin was contained by an arsenal of Wham-O toys. Children were playing just feet away when a lawn gnome at the home of Manuel Enrique Hernandez and Tiffany Glasscock-Hernandez burst into flames in a yard of Bermuda grass that had long since succumbed to the July temperatures. An adjoining field of dry, brittle mesquite forms the only barrier between the yard and three oilfield tank batteries located within a quarter mile of the home. The advance of the grassfire that resulted from the flaming gnome was cut off by a fortuitously positioned Slip N Slide, and the fire was extinguished by a Water Wiggle, as frightened children screamed and cheered from the bed of a 1984 Dodge pickup parked in the yard. "Me and Sissy was over there smoking Camels when that little elf statue just blew up" Mrs. Glasscock-Hernandez stated. "One minute he's got that goofy look on his face, the next he's a ball of fire. Manny tried to say we started it, but we always make sure we keep our butts in the kiddos' sand box".
The most disturbing and tragic incident occurred last Tuesday night in Springtown. A woman was sitting in a plastic chair on the deck of a neighbor's above ground pool in the minutes just after sunset. She burst into flames and was relegated to a puddle of foul smelling, tar-like ooze in a matter of seconds. It is uncertain if the combustion preceded - or was subsequent to - the collapse of the chair. Authorities declined to comment regarding whether or not the woman's mass, estimated at 165 kg, had anything to do with the tragedy. "It all happened so fast", an unidentified witness stated, "One minute she's there, and the next there's just a hole in the deck with this nasty smoke coming out". Regina Banks, the Parker County Medical Examiner, has yet to release an official cause of death.
The greatest concern for authorities at this point is the potential for spontaneous combustion of large groups of confined, overheated individuals. Reverend Hadley Swearingen of the Greater West Mount Moriah New Missionary Baptist Church in Longview has already taken steps to lower the risk. "We'll be starting our worship at 9:00 in the morning instead of 11:00, so that we can be done by 2:00… before it gets really hot", he stated. Other steps include installing misters in the choir section, and providing the deacons on the front row with fire extinguishers. Swearingen acknowledges that he will be at high risk, particularly in the latter two-thirds of his sermon, but he is confident that the fire extinguishers, combined with the position of the deacons, and his position in the Kingdom, guarantees his safety. "We're going to pray like Elisha and trust the Good Lord to rain that fire down where it's deserved. The prophets of Baal are those drug dealers out on the street... Praise God!... Hallelujah!... Can I get an Amen?!".