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makeshift 11 burning cabin

The Scenario

Having heard the call of the wild, you recently purchased a small, rustic cabin that’s situated among tall trees on the edge of an official wilderness area. It has running water and electricity but no landline phone yet. You haven’t met any of your neighbors, and the nearest ones are about a quarter-mile away along a dirt road.

You’ve driven up there for the weekend to install security lighting around the perimeter and to clear away brush and flammable tinder. Fire season has arrived, and last year’s drought has only increased the danger. You locate an external 4-plug electrical outlet on the wood facing of an exterior wall, and plug in your chainsaw, power drill, and a brush trimmer to find that they are all working properly. After installing the lights and waging a few long hours of brush warfare, you head back toward the house only to be hit with the hot odor of an electrical problem. You immediately check the one outlet you’ve been using, and discover all of the plugs are blistering hot, with the one connected to the brush trimmer partially melted. The adjacent exterior wall also feels warm to the touch. You head inside and feel that the corresponding interior drywall is even hotter and giving off whiffs of burning wood.

The Challenge

If the house bursts into flames, not only could you lose your own property, but given the conditions, it could easily develop into a full-blown forest fire that wipes out your neighbors and much of the wilderness area as well. Not exactly the low-impact, Thoreau-like experience you were looking for. So what do you do now?

Here’s what you’ve got

Your hybrid SUV is well-gassed and ready to go, but your cellphone shows no reception here. In addition to the aforementioned tools and extension cords, the house and kitchen have the basic living essentials: furniture, pots and pans, etc. You also have a weekend’s supply of food — but roasting it over your burning house is not really an option. And the wall is only getting hotter …

Send a detailed description of your MakeShift solution with sketches and/or photos to [email protected] by Nov. 30, 2007. If duplicate solutions are submitted, the winner will be determined by the quality of the explanation and presentation. The most plausible and most creative solutions will each win a MAKE sweatshirt. Think positive and include your shirt size and contact information with your solution. Good luck! For readers’ solutions to previous MakeShift challenges, visit makezine.com/makeshift.

Lee D. Zlotoff

Lee D. Zlotoff is a writer/producer/director among whose numerous credits is creator of MacGyver. He is also president of Custom Image Concepts (


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