"Our mother always put her cash in the mattress, which, I thought it was a good idea-until the house burned down. It was a big fire. She lost everything."
Many TV shows and live-action movies feature, at some point, a plot involving the main setting (or other major location) being heavily damaged or destroyed in a fire. After the main situation leading to the fire is played out, the rest of the episode will be dedicated to the major characters dealing with the aftermath. Either a new setting will be introduced, characters will deal with someone's death (as a result of the fire) or some other Aesop
relating to fire safety will be explored.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Kill la Kill: Ryuko's Big Fancy House was burned down the night her father was killed. The actual burning is only glimpsed in flashbacks.
- A rather dark and tragic example occurs in X-Men: Evolution fanfic A Time to Burn Bridges by Artemis's Liege. Rogue returns to the house where she was raised, after her diabolical adoptive mother Mystique cruelly uses her then betrays her, in order to bury her recently deceased other adoptive mother who was actually good to her. After the funeral, Rogue douses the interior of the house with gasoline to deliberately create a fire, momentarily reconsiders her actions for a few moments after reminiscing about the happy memories she has there, and then just lights up her childhood home anyway.
- A prominent feature of the climax of Home Is Where The Haunt Is.
- It is a common practice for shippers to have the home of one half of their preferred pairing burn down, forcing that character to move in with the other half of the preferred pairing. Romance Ensues.
- In Esther Loewen Vogt's novel, Turkey Red, both the Tinsleys' barn and the Mennonite schoolhouse burn to the ground, in separate incidents.
- Brenda A. Ferber's novel, Julia's Kitchen, opens with the deaths of the heroine's mother and sister in a house fire.
- A Drowned Maiden's Hair, by Laura Amy Schlitz, has a house fire which the heroine barely escapes.
- Marcia Martin's novel, Mystery at Arawak, features two fires which are extinguished mostly by women and girls.
- A theater burns down in Adele De Leeuw's novel, Curtain Call.
Live Action TV
- All in the Family: The 1977 episode "Fire," where a small electrical fire breaks out in the Bunkers' home. There's no apparent damage, but Archie (to receive a insurance settlement) tries to blame his boarder, Teresa.
- The Burning Bed: Farrah Fawcett in a widely acclaimed role of Francine Hughes, who in 1977 killed her husband James "Mickey" Hughes (Paul Le Mat) to escape 13 years of domestic abuse. How? By pouring gasoline around the bed where her drunken husband was sleeping, then escaping the house in time as he died in the flames. Hughes was tried and acquitted of first-degree murder, successfully pleading temporary insanity.
- Blockbusters: The early 1980s NBC game show — a basic Q&A, but with one contestant competing against two to complete a game board — had one contestant competing on the show ... and during his run as champion during the summer of 1981, his house was destroyed by fire (not finding out until after the final taping of the day). He was invited to return later in the summer, and after explaining his leave of absence he eventually won $120,000.
- Bonanza: The season 12 opener "The Night Virginia City Died" was really the night Virginia City died ... the original set of the main Bonanza town, that is. In the summer of 1970, the series moved production from the Paramount lot to Warner Bros. studios, and in order to take apart some of the buildings used on the old set, a script was devised to destroy the "old" Virginia City. That script centered on an unidentified arsonist setting fires to various buildings around town; various people are suspected, but it isn't until episode's end that the real culprit — the fiancÚ of Clem, the town's deputy — is identified, and it happens only after she dies in the last fire she set (she had been sexually abused as a child by her stepfather, who died in a fire she set years earlier). By the episode's end, when the townspeople are rebuilding, it is clear that the town has a different look, and it is because filming is now taking place in a different studio.
- Cheers: Season 11's "The Little Match Girl" has Rebecca accidentally setting the bar on fire after vowing to quit smoking and tossing her (apparently not-completely-extinguished) last cigarette into a wastebasket in Sam's office. (While half the bar's interior was gutted, Sam must have been able to find exact replicas for everything, because by the next episode the place looks pretty much exactly as it had before.)
- Dallas: The 1983 season cliffhanger, "Ewing Inferno," sees the Southfork Ranch mansion heavily damaged by flames after J.R. Ewing and Ray Krebs get into a fight. Ray confronts J.R. over a car accident that caused Sue Ellen and Mickey to be badly injured, and a wine glass thrown at him hits a lighted candle, igniting some cloths and resulting in the huge inferno that traps several people. (Everyone's OK, as it turns out.)
- EastEnders has had oh so many. The prime example was when Little Mo's abusive husband Trevor snapped and doused their house in petrol with them and Little Mo's baby trapped inside. Mo bravely (or stupidly) lit a match in defiance, but in a scuffle the match was dropped and the house caught fire. Heroic fireman Tom managed to rescue both Little Mo and her baby, but when he went back for Trevor an explosion killed them both.
- Emergency!: Most episodes had at least one of these.
- Happy Days: The episode "Hot Stuff" revolved around a fire that destroys Arnold's, and three of the main characters being trapped (Fonzie, Potsie and Ralph) and having to be rescued. The main storyline was driven by a decision to update the old '50s-style Arnold's set with a modern setting.
- The Hogan Family: A memorable 1987 episode, "Burned Out," depicts the Hogans being forced to flee their home after an old lamp shorts out in the attic. The upper story and attic are heavily damaged, but the main focus of the episode is on the family's renewed grief over losing their matriarch, Valerie (Valerie Harper having left the series earlier in the year, and her character having being killed off in a previous episode). The most poignant scene involves teen-aged son David investigating the damage in his room, and seeing the charred remains of his mother's picture on what used to be his nightstand; he sees it and breaks down in tears. (In a way, that scene depicted a reality for many families who lose a loved one, then most if not all pictures and other momentoes of the deceased loved one's life are destroyed by fire.)
- And the second most involved him revealing a prayer he had made when discovered what was happening and was unable to find his family: "Dear God, I just lost my mother. Please don't take them too."
- Little House on the Prairie: While many episodes featured houses being damaged or destroyed due to fire, the most famous example was the 1980 episode "May We Make Them Proud," where a burning pipe is left in some blankets in the basement of the School For the Blind. The fire spreads upstairs, eventually destroying the house and killing Alice Garvey and Adam Kendall Jr. (both of whom are trapped in the flames).
- In one of the last episodes of the series, 1983's "For the Love of Blanche," one of the few dramatic points in an otherwise lighthearted program had baby Rose Wilder knock down a lamp, causing a small fire. Blanche an orangutan whom Mrs. Olesen wanted killed after it attacked Nancy in self defense — saves Rose's life and alerts Jenny Wilder, who puts out the fire before it causes any major damage.
- In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), the Harvelle Roadhouse burns down resulting in the death of Ash.
- Webster: An early second-season episode has Webster accidentally causing a fire that destroys the Papadopoluses' apartment. The fire serves as a driver for the main plot — Webster racing to save his remaining mementoes of his biological parents, who had died a year earlier in a car accident.
- Wings did it twice, in the season 7 premiere and the season 8 premiere. Both fires were largely vehicles to keep Joe, Helen, Brian, and Casey living together a while longer, as after each fire, one pair had to move in with the other.
- "Independence Day" by Martina McBride: In this song raising awareness of domestic abuse, both the husband and wife die in a house fire, caused by the battered woman finally wanting to get the upper hand against her abusive husband. The firemen are seen extinguishing the fire, which engulfs the small shanty of the house in the second verse; a young girl, from whose point of view this song is told, runs home from a downtown parade to see the house on fire and to learn both of her parents are trapped inside, as pointed out in the lyrics, "Well she lit up the sky/That Fourth of July/By the time the firemen came/They just put out the flames and took down some names ...".
- For Better or for Worse: A 2006 storyline dealt with oldest son Michael and his family losing their home due to a fire that breaks out in the other half of the duplex building they lived in. (The cause was the resident of the other unit smoking in bed.)
- Peanuts: Snoopy's doghouse burns down. He hires contractors to build a replacement.
- A fire that destroyed a funeral home and killed its owners (a kindly middle-aged couple) is the main driver in the often tumultuous relationship between their sons, The Undertaker and Kane. During a 1998 episode of WWE Raw, their mutual friend-enemy Paul Bearer reveals that Kane (Undertaker's "brother") had set fire to the funeral home, killing their parents; it had been thought by Undertaker that Kane was also "killed" in the fire, only for him to learn that Kane survived. Bearer (who was at the funeral home when the fire broke out, and escaped without injury) had Kane institutionalized after suffering extreme emotional and physical trauma, and he claimed that Undertaker knew that Kane survived, learned of his brother's whereabouts and began abusing him for his sadistic pleasure. The story continued on and off for the past 15-plus years, but always comes back to this root story.
- In Real Life Jeff Hardy's house burned down and his dog died in the fire. Wrestling being wrestling, they used this in an angle; In Kayfabe Jeff's brother Matt not only burned his house down, he let Jeff's dog die.
- Family Guy: In the first-season episode "Mind Over Murder," Peter — who is under house arrest after being convicted of assault — opens a bar in the basement of his home. Things are going well under a carelessly discarded cigarette ignites a fire; Peter and Lois (who have gotten into a fight over her desire to sing for the patrons) are having a heart-to-heart talk, unaware of the danger to them until the fire has grown to engulf much of the basement bar and trap them both. Meanwhile, Stewie has built a time machine that will allow him to move in time — this time, to a point where he isn't teething. Just as the fire has spread upstairs, Stewie accidentally reverses time ... to a point before he goes into teething, and in the process saves the lives of Peter and Lois, and Peter from having an assault conviction. Why? Because in the "new present," Peter trips over the time machine, becoming injured and not having to go to take Chris to a soccer game where he and the woman got into the argument, leading to the assault.
- In another episode, "Jerome is the New Black" (from season 8), Peter causes a house fire that destroys new friend Jerome's house.
- Jem: An early episode, "Disaster," revolves around the Starlight House (an foster home for girls) is destroyed by fire after a failed burglary by Zipper, one of Eric's henchmen.
- The Simpsons: Several episodes have seen a fire damage (to varying degrees) the Simpsons' house, including:
- "Homer the Heteric": Caused by Homer falling asleep while smoking a cigar, and the lighted tip igniting his pornographic magazines.
- "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace": Bart causes the family's Christmas tree and presents to burn to a crisp after his prized fire truck shoots water at an electrical outlet. (He claims that he had thwarted a burglary, but before the family can explain Bart's ruse, Kent Brockmann uncovers the truth.)