When Maudie's house begins to burn, what other possibility is the Finch family worried about in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Miss Maudie's home catches fire on a bitterly cold winter night, Atticus and his neighbors are concerned for their sweet neighbor. In addition, the Finches are very worried that the fire will spread to theirs and other houses. 

Shortly after Miss Maudie's house catches fire, Atticus wakes his children. Jem seems to know that Miss Maudie's house is going to be a total loss: "It's gone, ain't it?" and Atticus replies, "I expect so." Then, the children are sent outside to walk down the street and stand before the Radley house at the end of the block, keeping an eye on the direction of the wind.

Unfortunately, with the unusually bitter cold, Maycomb's old fire truck will not start, and the men from the town have to push it to the hydrant, only to have the hoses burst. Finally, a fire truck from a neighboring town arrives, but it is too late for Miss Maudie's house.

The neighbors return to their homes, and Atticus discovers that Scout and Jem have a blanket thrown over their shoulders. The children have been unaware of this blanket because of all the excitement, but Atticus understands that Boo Radley must have placed it upon the children's backs in order to keep them warm while they were mesmerized by the fire.

marilynn07 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most important thing about the fire was how Atticus Finch responded. He first woke his family and got them out of the house and far away from the danger. Then, he went to see what he might do to help.

Jem was made aware by Atticus of the possibility of their own house catching fire from the wind blowing embers onto their roof.  Jem carefully watched his father's body language to know when it would be time to move the furniture from their own home.

Atticus' fears were not realized as the fire trucks came in time and began wetting the roof of his and the neighboring homes. The wind's direction did not blow burning embers onto their roof.  But fire duringthe 1930s was a very real danger and threat to homes and neighborhoods as most homes in central Alabama of this period were made of wood with tar or wood shingles on the roof.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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