Terrorizing the Barflies

In the latest example of people getting waaayyy too worried about terrorism and other dangers, we bring you a prosecution in Washington.

This news, brought to my attention by Chris Stecher via Facebook, reads like an Onion parody, but here goes:  Two bartenders who entertain patrons by doing fire breathing tricks face up to 45 years in prison, according to the Washington Examiner.

This fire-breathing bartender could get 45 years in prison for the trick he's doing in this photo.

Apparently these two guys put some alcohol in their mouth, light a match near their face, and WHOOSH!!! Fire roars out of their mouths to the delight of the assembled tavern patrons.

However, Fairfax County, Virginia fire investigators aren’t so delighted. The two bartenders are charged with manufacturing an explosive device, setting a fire capable of spreading, and burning and destroying a meeting house.

Jeez, just for pretending to be fire-breathing dragons?

I think we’re all going to jail, then, because we’re all guilty of these crimes. Lighting alcohol in your mouth seems to be manufacturing an explosive device, by this logic. Well, last fall, I obtained a burn permit to set fire to a brush pile in my back yard. It went up like a rocket, so I guess I manufactured an explosive device. After all, I piled all the dry wood there and set it on fire.

The other charge: Setting a fire capable of spreading. Aren’t all fires capable of spreading?  I mean, half the restaurants in town have candles on the tables. Knock over the candle, and the fire can spread. I say lock up all the restaurant owners, then.

And the third charge, burning and destroying a meeting house. Um, the tavern where these fire-breathing dragons, er bartenders work is still intact. They’ve apparently been doing this trick for a decade, and the Examiner article does not note any fire damage to the place. It says it’s a popular tavern, and I can’t imagine  many people would go there if it’s just a pile of ash.

According to WUSA9.com, fire officials said they did cause a fire that caused $200 in damage (a huge disaster!) but the bar owner says the place never caught fire.

The fire officials in Fairfax County seem to be overreacting, but why? The owner of the bar said if fire officials thought the fire breathing bartenders were unsafe, they should have just told the tavern owner to knock it off, and he would have complied.  So why go through the taxpayer expense of legal action?  These bartenders are maybe a little dumb, but they don’t exactly strike me as serial killers.

Seems others agree with me on this. Fairfaxtimes.com quotes a town council member saying that the charges seem over the top. However, fire officials in Fairfax County raised the spector of the awful West Warwick, R.I. nightclub fire of 2003, which killed 100 people and injured 200.

This fire in Winooski, Vermont killed a young man Wednesday morning. Fires are often tragic, but is the unrelated prosecution of bartenders performing fire tricks too much?

The problem with West Warwick, however, seemed to be the exits were inadequate and the material on the stage where the fire started was highly flammable and created toxic smoke, resulting in the tragedy.

I don’t mean to joke about fires in general. Today, I covered a fatal apartment building fire in Winooski for the Burlington Free Press. A 26-year-old guy died, and that’s awful, no two ways about it.

But threatening two mildly dumb guys with 45 years in prison when murderers sometimes get less than that?  Now that’s really stupid.

One Response to “Terrorizing the Barflies”

  1. montpelier28 Says:

    Patriot Act – welcome police state, I’m sure somewhere in the most Unamerican law ever passed it deals with fire. I had’nt heard about the fatality, that is sad. The picture on the news was awsome is not the word but can’t think of another.

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