Throughout their whole journey, Ralph has suggested that they have a fire going so that the smoke can attract ships, and then they could be rescued. The young boys constantly ignore the fire, and it goes out. Ralph gets very angry with them.
"There was a ship. Out there. You said you'd keep the fire going and you let it out!.....They might have seen us. We might have gone home." (pg 70)
It was a continual problem during the story.
At the end of the book, the rest of the boys had followed Jack, and they stole Ralph,Sam, and Piggy's fire.
"Just an ordinary fire. You'd think we could do that, wouldn't you? Just a smoke signal so we can be rescued. Are we savages or what? Only now there's no signal going up. Ships may be passing. Do you remember how he (Jack) went hunting and the fire went out and a ship passed by.....Now Piggy can't see, and they came stealing....at night, in darkness, and stole our fire. They stole it. We'd have given them fire if they'd asked. But they stole it, and the signal's out and we can't ever be rescued." (pg 170)
Piggy is killed and the tribe is now pursuing Ralph. Ralph is trying everything he knows to survive. Suddenly he heard something.
"There was another noise to attend to now, a deep grumbling noise, as though the forest itself were angry with him, a somber noise across which the ululations were scribbled excruciatingly on a slate. He knew he had heard it before somewhere, but had no time to remember. (pg 196)
The boys had started a fire to smoke Ralph out of his hiding place, and now the forest was on fire. Ralph becomes panicked when the boys start chasing him with pointed sticks.
"They were all running, all crying out madly. He could hear them crashing in the undergrowth and on the left was the hot, bright thunder of the fire. He forgot his wounds, his hunger and thirst, and became fear; hopeless fear on flying feet, rushing through the forest toward the open beach..." (pg 200)
When he reaches the beach, he meets a man in a Navy uniform and sees a cutter behind him in the water. The young boys, having pursued Ralph onto the beach, suddenly appear behind him. The ironic thing is that Ralph had fought so hard to keep the fire going, his fire went out, but the other boys in an effort to flush him out and kill him started a fire, a fire that could have killed them all, and the smoke rescued them all. The naval officer tells them,
"We saw your smoke. What have you been doing? Having a war or something?" (pg 201)
Another irony is that the navel officer came on a war ship.
The summary and analysis on e-notes is a very good help when studying this novel.