The wildfire raging up near Lake Tahoe reminded us of our dear old cousin Mark. Mark Twain, that is, and what we remembered was his own brush with accidental arson up Tahoe way.

It's a little-known fact, if "fact" be something that can safely ascribed to Twain's baroquely embellished reminiscences of his years out West, that he was solely responsible for a horrendous forest fire on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

It was 1861, and the young not-yet-famous-writer was taking a break from the imaginary job of assisting his brother, the Secretary to the Governor of the Nevada Territory. There wasn't much government to speak of in the Territory, nor any real work at all -- but he'd heard tales of a gorgeous mountain lake paradise to the north, so one day he and a friend set out to find the spot. All was idyllic for the first two weeks of the camping trip, but then... well, perhaps we should let him tell the story in his own words -- here's Mark Twain in an excerpt from Roughing It:

By and by our provisions began to run short, and we went back to the old camp and laid in a new supply. We were gone all day, and reached home again about night-fall, pretty tired and hungry. While Johnny was carrying the main bulk of the provisions up to our "house" for future use, I took the loaf of bread, some slices of bacon, and the coffee-pot, ashore, set them down by a tree, lit a fire, and went back to the boat to get the frying-pan. While I was at this, I heard a shout from Johnny, and looking up I saw that my fire was galloping all over the premises! Johnny was on the other side of it. He had to run through the flames to get to the lake shore, and then we stood helpless and watched the devastation.