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The Art of War
Sun Tzu

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Fire Attacks

CHAPTER SUMMARY (12.01-12.13): Initiating Various Types of Fire Attack
The five types of fire attack: burning 1) personnel (i.e., enemy buildings to make the enemy leave); 2) food, other provisions; 3) equipment; 4) supplies; and 5) weapons. The overall purpose: primarily, to sap the enemy's will to fight altogether; secondarily, to disrupt the enemy's plans against you and expose/identify its weaknesses. There are five ways for your troops to behave, depending on where you set the fire and how the enemy reacts. 1) Use the direct method: Set the fire inside the enemy camp; while the enemy is preoccupied with dousing the fire, your troops attack. 2) But if the enemy stays calm, you refrain from attack; wait to see if enemy behavior changes—if it does, adapt. 3) Wait until the flames reach their height (wait for the enemy to work itself into a frenzy) before you attack. 4) You use the indirect method: Start the fire around the perimeter, not inside, enemy territory; attack at an opportune moment, before the fire spreads to the inside. 5) If the fire is upwind (moving against the wind), do not put your troops in jeopardy (in the path of the fire) by attacking downwind (placing them in-between the fire and the enemy). In all cases, only launch a fire attack to end the conflict as soon as possible. Know when to desist altogether from conducting such an attack.


[12.02] Using fire attacks depends on proper conditions. Equipment for fire attacks must be available beforehand.

[12.03] There are appropriate seasons for using fire attacks, and appropriate days for raising fires. The appropriate season is when the weather is dry and it's windy; the appropriate day is when the moon is at Chi, Pi, I, or Chen.* These four days are when there are rising winds.

[12.04] Generally, in fire attacks, you must respond according to the five changes of fire: If the fires are set inside enemy camp, you must respond quickly outside the enemy camp; if the fires are set but the enemy is calm, then wait, do not attack. Let the fire reach its height, and follow up if you can, stay* if you cannot.

[12.05] If the fire attack can be set outside, without relying on the inside, set it when the time is right. If the fire is set upwind, do not attack downwind.* If it is windy all during the day, the wind will stop at night. The army must know the five changes of fire,* to be able to calculate the appropriate days.

[12.06] Those who use fire to assist in attacks are intelligent, those who use water* to assist in attacks are powerful. Water can be used to cut off the enemy, but cannot be used to plunder.



12.03 the moon is at Chi, Pi, I, or Chen. The days the moon aligns with constellations: Chi, (Sagittarius); Pi (Andromeda); I, (Crater), and Chen (Corvus). The point is to wait for the right time for a fire attack; consider not only the weather but also the enemy's mood (strike not when the enemy's calm, but upset). 
12.05 do not attack downwind. Don't place your own forces in the path of the fire. 

The Five Changes of Fire
Fire inside enemy camp Enemy troops douse the flames; your forces attack.
Fire inside enemy camp Enemy stays calm; you adjust, refrain from attack.
Fire inside enemy camp The flames reach their zenith; you attack.
Fire around enemy camp You attack before the fire reaches the inside.
Fire spreads upwind You refrain from placing your troops downwind.

12.04 Stay. Wait to see how your enemy will respond.
12.06 Those who use water. The reference here is to those who use a river to weaken, divide enemy troops.
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