Alice Thompson lived with her parents in rural southern Illinois. Besides a house and a tool shed, the other building on their small acreage was a chicken coop where the egg-laying hens roosted. When young Alice found some matches, she took them into the chicken coop to see if she could figure out how to strike one. She did figure it out, and held the burning wooden matchstick until it got too hot, then dropped it. Instead of burning out, the bit of flame fell on a piece of straw, which came alive with fire.
Determined that no one know about the matches, Alice covered up the flame with readily available material—a handful of straw. For a minute, it seemed to work, but then the pile began to smolder. She decided to smother the whole thing, so she scooped up a full armload of straw to bury the evidence once and for all. Satisfied that she had finally taken care of the matter, she ran out into the yard to play. Soon the chicken coop had burned to the ground.