What type of figurative language is "he ran like a house on fire" from Catching Fire?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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He ran like a house on fire is an example of an idiom, and more specifically a simile.  A simile is a comparison between two unlike things.  An idiom is a commonly used figure of speech.

Katniss does use simile from time to time. 

Outside the window, a car comes to life, soft and quiet like the purr of a cat. (p. 30)

Authors use descriptive language to help the reader visualize something that may not be easily described.  Sometimes this comparison evokes strong emotions.  We can imagine someone running away from a house on fire would be frightened.  Most of us know what the purr of a cat sounds like.