When dealing with zombies, most people assume the only way to dispatch them is decapitation or destroying the brain by smashing their heads in, yet there is another way: fire. Fire has the potential to turn even the most voracious zombie into nothing more than a pile of ashes that’s incapable of doing anyone any harm. However, zombies are unlikely to stand still while you light your trusty Zippo and set their clothes ablaze so if you want to use fire against them you’ll need an effective way of doing it.
If you’re lucky, you may be able to get hold of a flame-thrower giving you the capability of toasting the undead to a crisp before they get close enough to sink their teeth into your soft pink flesh. If you can’t, there’s always the good old Molotov cocktail or petrol bomb. As rioters and guerrilla fighters have proven over and over again since the 1930s, these remarkably simple devices can be effective weapons but getting hold of the fuel to make them may be a bit of a problem. If you have the time you can also cook up some home-made napalm in your bath tub and that could prove useful if you can find a way of deploying it without setting fire to yourself too. Finally, there’s the fire ditch. This is an ancient defensive strategy that could help defend compounds and safe areas. The basic idea here is that you dig a deep, wide trench around your encampment and fill it with highly combustible materials. This can then be set alight whenever zombies attack, reducing them to cinders as they try to get through it. Used properly, this is probably one of the most effective ways of stopping a zombie horde over-running your defences.
However, using fire to kill zombies can be as dangerous for you as it is to them. By its very nature, fire is capricious and difficult to control. Once started, a fire can quickly get out of hand and you may find that instead of protecting you from the undead, it turns and forces you into their outstretched arms (and gaping mouths!). There’s also the issue that zombies won’t feel pain so they won’t stop just because they happen to be going up in smoke. This means that you can end up with flaming zombies stumbling around setting fire to anything they come into contact wtih, including you and your safe house. As a result, fire is a weapon you should use sparingly and with great care. It’s also something you should only use under carefully planned circumstances meaning it’s not a weapon you should unthinkingly reach for in the heat of a zombie attack. If you do, there’s a very good chance you’ll find yourself facing the stark choice of staying where you are and being burnt alive or fleeing the burning building and being eaten by the zombies that surround it – that’s a situation no one would want to find themselves in!
When planning to use fire, there’s a few things you need to think about. Firstly, you need to make sure that there’s as little stuff nearby that either you or a burning zombie could accidentally set fire to. This means it’s a good weapon to use on a city street but bad one to use in the middle of a forest (I know this is obvious but it still needs saying!). Secondly, you need to make sure you have some way of putting out the fire in case it gets out of hand. This can be water, fire-extinguishers or the types of beaters used to combat wild fires but whatever it is you need to have it close at hand before you start lighting up your zombies. Thirdly, you need to have a very clear idea of how you’re going to deploy it and who’s going to be using it. What you don’t want to be doing is using fire in a panicked situation where no one knows what they, or anyone else, is doing. Used in this way, fire can be your friend and defender, used any other way it’s likely to cause you as many problems as the zombies themselves.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK, and available as an ebook and in print in the US from the 21st March 2013. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.