When the enemy suffers from a major crisis, seize the chance to gain advantage. Resolution prevails over pliancy.
A burning house falls into commotion and tumult. Thus a thief can seize the chance to loot the property in the house when the doorkeeper and house guards are busily engaged in putting out the fire. The ifiom therefore means to take advantage of someone’s misfortune to do him harm.
In war, a burning house symbolizes a nation that is suffering a major crisis or is on the decline. By attaching such a nation, one can get twice the result with half the effort. Thus the strategy advocated the universal principle of striking at the enemy’s weak points and in this sense relates to several other strategies. For instance, when one chooses to set fire to the house before looting it unopposed instead of squaring with the house guards, one may also be said to have applied Strategy Nineteen; Remove firewood from under the caldron. If only a tactical move rather than a strategic plan is involved, Strategy Twelve is relevant: Lead away a goat in passing.