The purpose of Poetslife is to promote the art and discipline of American Tactical Civil Defense for families and small businesses and to contribute practical American civil defense preparedness guidance for all Americans through my articles in the The American Civil Defense Association (TACDA.ORG) Journal of Civil Defense and leadership as the volunteer Vice President of TACDA.


12 Lessons from a Tractor Hay Baler Fire

Putting out a tractor hay fire on traffic safety duty at St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic in Libertytown on October 2, 2021 taught me many civil defense lessons I would like to share.

Note: My photos are all after the fire. I was too busy putting it out to take photos of the actual fire or my fire suppression methods described below.

1. Disasters Occur at the Most Unexpected Times

As a traffic crossing guard at St. Pete's helping keep children and moms safe from huge trucks and careless drivers, I have had some scares. 

Once, a guy with Florida tags thought I should get out of the way. 

Despite me having a large STOP sign over my head and a flag indicating to wait, he gunned his car and drove right past me. He just avoided missing the children and moms and my toes. 

And just yesterday after the 5 pm Mass as I was saying to a lone straggler, "Today is the Feast of your Guardian Angel! Make sure you pray to your Guardian Angel today! I heard a loud scream "FIRE!!! FIRE!!! DOES ANYONE HAVE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER?!!!"

2. Have Your Emergency Items BEFORE the Event

I turned quickly to see a woman stepping out of a HUGE hay baler that took up 2 lanes of Route 75 (Green Valley Road). 

This Route runs right by St. Pete's and lots of trucks transit it from the nearby cement quarries and farms. As parishioners from St. Pete's park across Route 75 and must walk across it to get to church, we have a small brigade of crossing guards for all the Masses to ensure their safety.

She was yelling for a fire extinguisher as she opened the large plexiglass door and down the multiple steps from her driver enclosure in the air and to the ground. 

I confirmed with my eyes that she was not hurt and was now walking away from the fire. Given the size of the tractor and baler, it struck me as odd that she did not have a fire extinguisher on the inside driver cabin of the tractor, but if she was screaming for one, that was the case.

Behind her I saw flickering flames dancing on the top of the hay. Worse, there was light gray smoke billowing out of all the baler. It struck me that this hay was to about engage. That meant the huge engine, large gas tank, and 12 tires would go as well.

I ran about 30 yards to where she was to confirm she was OK and to size up the traffic and the state of the drivers trying to exit the church parking lot. I also wanted to see how much traffic was building in the cross section. St. Pete's is right off Route 26 and subject to heavy traffic.

3. People Freeze in any Disaster and Need Guidance

One large truck was blocking the intersection. He had stopped when he saw the baler on fire. I decided he had to drive on if the fire equipment was to be able to get near the baler.

I waved my arms to indicated he should just drive around the baler and continue on. From the relief on his face, he was glad to do so.

"Please turn your truck around and go the other way" I said to another truck drive in the opposite street waiting to turn. I was trying to clear the intersection of traffic before the fire equipment arrived. 

4. Go into the Zone and Think Clearly

With the tractor driver OK and the traffic cleared so the Libertytown Fire Company could now arrive, I sprinted to where I could get a fire extinguisher.

I thought of the fire extinguisher I always carry with my everyday carry (EDC) in my car trunk, but realized it was too small for this fire. So, I ran up the stairs into the church to find a larger fire extinguisher. 

When I ran into the Narthex, all was calm and friendly as families and the priest enjoyed laughing and chatting. I interrupted them with, "THERE  IS A TRACTOR FIRE OUTSIDE. WHERE IS A FIRE EXTINGUISHER!?"

"There is one right over there" said the priest. I opened the fire extinguisher door (luckily it was not locked as it often is in the city), pulled it out, ran out the front door and down the front church steps, pulled the pin, and gave it a test blast.

5. Law of Unintended Consequences

As always the laws of physics kick in. Here, it was the Law of Unintended Consequences. As I test fired the fire extinguisher, I saw the blast was going toward a van with a mom I had not seen before.

"Oh My God...I am so sorry! Please close that van door." I said as I continued to run past her. She smiled and I noted the blast dissipated before she it got to her so I continued to run toward the fire.

At 66, I cannot run like I did when I was 16, but I ran at a good enough clip to get to the fire before it became fully engaged.

6. Size Up the Danger BEFORE Going into the Danger

I came around some bushes to observe the danger before I fought it. The previous large billow of smoke had died down a bit so I was able see the extent of the fire better. I could see some fire above the baler and some below. I decided my course of action was to cut of the supply of oxygen causing  the flames by smothering them with blasts of the fire extinguisher chemicals.

7. Pray to the Holy Spirit for Courage and then ACT ACT ACT

I said a quick prayer. "Holy Spirit, please give me the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it."

The Holy Spirit, and my Guardian Angel especially as it was the Feast Day of the Guardian Angels, responded.

As the bottom was the easiest to reach first, I began to spray there and did a 360 around the entire baler spraying white chemical foam on the flames. That knocked out the flames underneath, but there was still the problem of the flames up top. I realized there were also probably flames inside the baler I could not see.

I saw the 10 step iron stair to the top of the baler and scaled it. Now on top of the fire, I was able to rain down chemical spray all over the area. The fire went out quickly, which was good because I was out of chemical spray.

8. Expect Conflict and Adapt to It

As my primary duty was being a crossing guard, I returned to my position at the walk cross near the other side of St. Pete's. As I expected, traffic was building.

I told each driver there was a fire ahead and they needed to turn around. Most cooperated, until two.

"We are almost out of gas. Can you tell us where the nearest gas station is?" I knew the one nearby was not accessible due to the fire so I said, "You will need to turn around. There is one back that way." They did.

I  was able to get about another 10 vehicles to turn around until a guy in a fancy pickup truck rolled down his window and said, "I'm not turning around."

"You can't go forward. There is a tractor that caught fire and the fire trucks will be there."

"I don't care. I am not moving." As he was in front, he was  preventing 12 other vehicles from turning around.  

I learned decades ago not to argue with uncooperatives in a disaster, so I just walked away. Then I took the two large signs on wheels that state "STATE LAW. PEDESTRIANS IN CROSSWAY!" in front of his truck. I also put traffic cones in front of his truck. 

9. Try to Report to the Arriving Commander on Scene

As the fire equipment was now arriving, remembering my NIMS 101 and 102 training, I sprinted down to them to report to the onsite commander. As the Chief existed the first fire truck, I said, "Any chance you can move this truck a few feet forward and I can get these cars out of the church parking lot?"

"No. I'm concerned that tractor engine is going to explode and so I want it here as a barrier."

BINGO. His need for everyone's safety tramped my need to get the parishioners out of the church parking lot.

He was right. Even if I put out the hay fire, the residual heat could make that engine and all the oil and gas ignite. I backed off and let the experts do their job. They hooked a water hose to the front pumper of the fire engine and began to hose off the hot engine and smoldering hay.

10.  Officials Can be Wrong

I returned to my crossing duty station where I could be the most effective as the professionals had arrived to deal with the aftermath of the tractor baler fire.

As I thought, the traffic on this busy road was building and building. I saw a guy with a "Fire Police" reflective vest talking to the uncooperative who was visibly angry and complaining.

"Can't we let this guy go through?" the fire policeman asked me. I guess the guy's complaining was getting to him.

"You tell me.  Look down there. Your own equipment is blocking the road and the intersection. That guy can turn around."

"He is being really argumentative." he answered.

"Well. Again, he can turn around or he can wait. Your equipment and everyone's safety has priority. Let's work together on this, OK, Brother?"

He turned to mollify the uncooperative who continued to whine and be selfish and block the now 45 drivers and families behind him.

11. Check that Everyone is OK and the Disaster is Over

I returned to the driver of the bailer. She was young and now laughing with a fire fighter. I gave her one of my Tactical Civil Defense business cards and said, "Disaster happen every day. Here are ways to learn how to deal with them." She was confused, but took the card. 

As there were several young firefighters and I always want to get them trained up in civil defense, I gave them all cards as well. One guy was particularly hesitant, but he took it. Many cops, state troopers, firefighters, intelligence people and others who see the dark side of humans are reluctant to take my civil defense card. 

That's OK. I'm backing them up with skills, knowledge, and an expert network that can save their lives, so as with mom's and small business owners I persist and make sure they know about the life saving skills to be learned on and The American Civil Defense Association (

For example, I just wrote two articles for the Journal of Civil Dense that will help save their lives and their family's. 

Civil Defense and Children

Social Media for When Disaster Strikes

Both and have so many resources to teach them how to deal with manmade and natural disasters, if they ACT ACT ACT, read, learn and implement the lessons to be found there.

12.  God Works in Mysterious Ways

One of my mother's many sayings was, "God Works in Mysterious Ways!" As here.

During the week, one of the other crossing guards asked if someone would cover for his 5 pm Mass duty as he had a wedding to attend. He offered to take my 8 am Sunday Mass if I would take his 5 pm Saturday Mass. I agreed via text message and he thanked me.

God prepositions those he wants to act when disasters strike. He also provides the  skill set to do so. I was a substitute crossing guard who had the skill set to put out that baler fire on Route 75 outside St. Pete's after the 5 pm Mass.

My MIA Uncle 2nd Lt. Frank J. Curley was willing to be the substitute for another USAAF navigator on a bombing mission over HaHa Jima February 10, 1945. He got to Heaven at 21. I will have to wait.

Which is the final lesson.

I do not fear death. It is release from this material world to a far better world I cannot even imagine.

Due to the information dominance of medical, political and economic "experts" so many fear death right now and act irrationally.

They wear masks that do not work, inject an unapproved inoculation they pretend is a vaccine even into children who do not need it, and try to impose their medical tyranny on the world even after herd immunity has taken hold.

These people fear death. They think they can prevent it when they have been moving toward death from the day they were born.

I chose rationality and truth and Jesus long ago and so celebrate that he will bring me home one day.

That reality gives me the perseverance to continue to deal with the fires of flames and reality to try to educate Americans about civil defense when only 1% actually care to do so.

Bonus Lessons: As I did not have a breathing apparatus of eye protection when I put out the fire, I got fire extinguisher chemicals in my eyes (with contacts in), my throat, my lungs, and all over my clothes.

I immediately took out my contacts when I got home and washed the stinging burn out of them with clean water. As well, I put my dirty clothes in the washer.

Most importantly, I TALKED TO MY WIFE OF 38 YEARS ABOUT IT. 

Here is a vital tip for all the younger guys. 

Talk about it. 

Always talk about it. 

Do not  go dark because you think your girlfriend or wife will never understand. To not scare her, wait until after the adrenaline dump after the event to tell her.

Often noncommunication only leads to separation, anger, ruminating, discord, divorce, loosing access to your children, chaos and even suicide.

Talk it out.

I work with many special forces Vets to help write their resumes as they transition from military to civilian life. It is one of my personal charity's.

Most have post traumatic stress injury. Not disorder. An injury of the mind can be healed. And many are.

Critical to that healing is talking about it. I meet almost every Saturday with a Marine, 25 year police veteran, 9th degree black belt(Okinawan style) and author. He tells story after story. 

He gets it out, even at 79. Because he does, he is a very healthy and happy man.

What is the difference?

My friend learned many years ago how to talk it out with his wife, who is also prior police service.

Please always talk. 

It prevents problems. 

And it prevents military, first responder, and veteran suicide.

At the request of a good friend who pulled 2 tours in Vietnam on the DMZ, I wrote this poem before attending the funeral for a Navy SEAL who was the husband of his niece. 

It is one of the hardest poems I have ever had to write. 

I do not want to write any more such poems.

Please talk it out.

Soft Feet Walk the Wet Green Grass at Arlington


Soft feet walk the wet green grass at Arlington,

Where a young mother cradles her baby and sons

Weeping softly in death-caused grief and pain

As her warrior husband is interred and remembered.


Many sing praises of his courage, bravery and strength

Under enemy fire in fierce battles in foreign lands.

She feels the baby move at her neck and cry out,

Hungry for food but unaware of the greater hunger.


The mother hears more words of praise from the chaplain.

She tries to maintain, but the knot of grief grabs her throat.

She sees the two boys fidgeting and looking about

And wonders how she will explain their father to them one day.


Her pain is now to a degree she knows as few do

The sword that has pierced her heart can never be removed

In this lifetime, and will stay with her until her own death:

Until then there are three children who must be raised.


As Christ hung on a Cross and Mary saw her son taken

So the Holy Spirit could be revealed to the human race,

This mother must protect, nourish, love and kindle

The spirit of these children co-created with her husband.


The wind blows and she looks up to see a man and a flag

Telling her how grateful the nation is for her husband’s sacrifice.

She knows now what every warrior’s widow must know,

The truth of his life work that became his mission:


His love for her was the reason he was willing to die,

That sacrificial love the reason these children live.

She cradles the baby and flag, takes the boys hands,

Stands and walks, despite the grief, to her destiny and duty.


 November 14, 2017

This is an Easter Card my mother sent to my son Josh when he was 8.
She sent it and then died a few days later.
The card arrived 3 weeks after she died. 
Grammy was right.
God does work in mysterious ways.
Sometimes he uses fire to purify us.