Appalachia Sayings from Appalachia

Fighting Fire and other Fire Sayings

old sayings about fire


  • If you play in the fire you’ll pee the bed tonight: Years ago Pap was burning off a small garden area. One of the littlest cousins kept playing in the fire-Pap told him “if you don’t quit playing in that fire you’ll wet the bed” never missing a beat he said “I’ll be swimming tonight!” We all got a big laugh out of that.
  • Fight fire with fire.
  • I’ve got too many irons in the fire.
  • Don’t add fuel to the fire.
  • Don’t burn your bridges.
  • Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
  • Where there’s smoke there’s fire.
  • Money burns a hole right through his pocket
  • If you play with fire you’re going to get burnt
  • Burning your candle at both ends.
  • Burning the midnight oil.

If you think of any other fire/burn/smoke sayings-hope you’ll leave me a comment.


This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in 2011.


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  • Reply
    C. Ron Perry, Sr
    February 11, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    This site has many quotes on multiple topics.
    Fire Sayings and Quotes
    The fire is the main comfort of the camp, whether in summer or winter, and is about as ample at one season as at another. It is as well for cheerfulness as for warmth and dryness. — Henry David Thoreau
    Fire is the most tolerable third party. — Henry David Thoreau
    Fire and gunpowder do not sleep together. — Proverb
    As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words. — William Shakespeare
    Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men. — Martha Graham
    Fire is never a gentle master — Proverb
    Fire that’s closest kept burns most of all. — William Shakespeare
    When fire is applied to a stone it cracks. — Author Unknown
    Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. — Arnold Glascow
    Give a man a fire and he’s warm for the day. But set fire to him and he’s warm for the rest of his life. — Terry Pratchett
    Fire, water, and government know nothing of mercy. — Proverb
    Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life. — Terry Pratchett
    The most tangible of all visible mysteries – fire. — Leigh Hunt
    What matters most is how well you walk through the fire. — Charles Bukowski
    Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life. — Buddha
    Where there is smoke there is fire. — Proverb
    The fire you kindle for your enemy often burns yourself more than them. — Chinese Proverb
    Playing with fire is bad for those who burn themselves. For the rest of us, it is a very great pleasure. — Jerry Smith
    Among the notable things about fire is that it also requires oxygen to burn – exactly like its enemy, life. Thereby are life and flames so often compared. — Otto Weininger
    Fire in the heart sends smoke into the head. — Proverb
    Fire is never a gentle master — Proverb
    The United States is like giant boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it, there is no limit to the power it can generate. –Winston Churchill
    Life is a flame that is always burning itself out, but it catches fire again every time a child is born. — George Bernard Shaw
    A man can be short and dumpy and getting bald but if he has fire, women will like him. — Mae West
    Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself. — Mark Twain
    Big fires flare up in a wind, but little ones are blown out unless they are carried in under cover. — St Frances De Sales
    One can enjoy a wood fire worthily only when he warms his thoughts by it as well as his hands and feet. — Odell Shepherd
    If you ever catch on fire, try to avoid seeing yourself in the mirror, because I bet that’s what really throws you into a panic. — Jack Handey
    He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient. — W.J. Cameron

  • Reply
    Terri Tompkins
    January 29, 2016 at 2:02 am

    How about “Keep the home fires burning”?

  • Reply
    Lisa and Dad Roger
    January 28, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    Liar liar pants on fire!!!

  • Reply
    Chuck Howell
    January 28, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    “Who fired that shot?” “I fired it!”

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    January 27, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    Those listed are the only ones I could come up with.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    How can we forget “Put Another Log on the Fire.”

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    My favorite is ” Sh_ _ Fire and you”ll save matches” which I don’t say but it was funny when I use to hear it.. And I can remember folks talk about Preachers back in the Day ” Preach Hell’s Fire and Brim Stone”…

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    That just burns my @$$
    What burns your @$$
    A fire about this high.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    “Boy! I bet her ears are burning” when talking about somebody behind their back.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Baptism by fire; liar, liar pants on fire; fire in the belly; ran like a house a-fire; hold your fire; I’m ready, fire away; slow down, where’s the fire?; that was a trial by fire; he sure got them all fired up; fat’s in the fire now; she really held his feet to the fire; moving as bad as a fire; he was firing on all cylinders; caught in the cross-fire; she was so mad she was hot as fire; he’d walk through fire for his kids, came out of that meeting with his hair on fire. Did anyone say, “Great Balls of Fire?”

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    “oooh – that burns me!” – meaning makes me angry
    “she’s got a hot foot today” – meaning someone skittering around, appearing to not have a focused direction but it could also mean someone who is getting a lot done in a very random manner so could be either a negative or positive reference.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    January 27, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Once burnt, twice shy; A burnt child dreads the fire. firebug–person who set fires: light a fire under him ( make a lazy person work harder).
    Glad to remember the one about playing in fire making people wet the bed. We were also told that eating a bunch of watermelon would have the same effect & I guess that one might have worked.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    January 27, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    I don’t have anything to add about fires, but I did enjoy Gayle’s joke about the Three Wise Men coming from afar. I had to call my brother in Kernersville about that one. Nice post…Ken

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    “Your Fired!” not something one wants to hear.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 27, 2016 at 11:48 am

    I really shouldn’t post this…..but the “devil made me do it”…..
    I know everyone remembers the joke about the child thinking the Three Wise Men were volunteer fireman, when he was told by his Sunday school teacher that they came from “afar”!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 27, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Well, I guess “we’re all fired up this morning”! ha
    How about this ‘old swear’ I remember from the fifties….”Hale (hell) fire and save matches!”
    When throwing a “cherry bomb” on July 4th…some would pretend war by saying, “fire in the hole”!
    Guess, I’m all “burnt out” right now on fire sayin’s, that is until I close my comment page, then I will think of more…..
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS….”Firing on all cylinders!”
    That gal is like me she “misfires” just ever so often!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 11:33 am

    “He Will Set Your Fields on Fire”
    Keep the home fires burning.
    Fire in the Hole!! (when using dynamite)
    Don’t fire til you see the whites of their eyes
    Hang fire (When shooting a gun)
    It backfired on him.
    Preaching hellfire and damnation.
    He’s not firing on all four cylinders.
    Don’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theater.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 27, 2016 at 11:13 am

    About someone who came but in haste to leave my Dad would ask, “What did you come after, a chunk of fire (far) ?”
    In the mines, the blast warning was, FIRE IN THE HOLE !
    A saying attributed to the frontiersmen was, “Spit in the fire and call the dog” as being all the preparation necessary to move again.
    And”goin like his head’s afar” meant going in a mad rush; rashly and recklessly thus likely headed for trouble.
    Reckon I’ve fired my shot.

  • Reply
    Paul martin
    January 27, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Johny Cash an The Ring of Fire!!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Doris’s comment reminded me of an old joke that people outside the mountains don’t usually get…..
    Q: Do you know why the Three Wise Men had ashes on their feet?
    A: No, why?
    Because they came from afar.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 11:02 am

    A burnt child dreads the fire.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    January 27, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Being burned up, meaning very angry
    Doing a slow burn, also meaning angry.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Have heard “rekindle an old flame” , “trial by fire”, and “not setting the world on fire”. In fact, have experienced all three to some extent.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 9:32 am

    All of these sayings are familiar to me, except one, and I have used them throughout my lifetime. The first one I never heard before; maybe it is a local one for the Appalachian area. You really do a great job with your photography even those this post is a repeat. You seem to have a good eye.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 9:27 am

    I often heard, “He got burned on that deal.” Once burned, twice shy. We mustn’t forget the lyrics to “Burning Love” by Elvis, as it seems to show the power of the burn. I have always found these old sayings to be so very helpful, and they sometimes contain good advice.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 9:23 am

    When Mom said someone was burning up, it usually meant they had a high body temperature. I think I have been know to say that, too.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    January 27, 2016 at 9:11 am

    How about, “Light a fire under him”, when a mule wouldn’t move, or today, to get someone off their butt and get something done?

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    January 27, 2016 at 8:55 am

    They have a scorched earth policy.
    The embers of love have all died out.
    She’s all fired up.
    He’s a flaming nuisance.
    She felt a sudden flare of anger.
    He went at it with a fire of enthusiasm.
    She spent her day at the office putting out fires.
    He has the fire in his belly.
    Her nonchalance stoked his anger.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Someone must have lit a fire under him

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    January 27, 2016 at 7:59 am

    He works like he’s fighting a fire.
    I used to hear that one all the time. Meant he is a hard worker. Barbara

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Doris- thank you for the comment!! Thats how we say it too 🙂

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 6:53 am

    Spreading like wildfire.

    • Reply
      Sherry Dobbs
      August 22, 2020 at 1:28 pm

      My Uncle HR always called the fire towers far tars!

  • Reply
    Doris Noland Parton
    January 27, 2016 at 5:36 am

    Only we used to pronounce “fire” as “far” or “farr!”

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