When Cassie and her brothers get home, the adults are already awake and furious to find the children missing. Before Papa can whip them though, Cassie starts crying and reveals the entire story, starting with the story T.J. told them. Papa decides he has to go get Stacey, and he grabs a gun, but Mama tries to stop him, saying it’ll get him killed. Mama begs him not to use his gun, and Papa gives her a strange look as lightning flashes in the distance. He tells her that he’ll do what he has to, and so will she. Then he and Mr. Morrison leave the house.
The Logans immediately spring to action when Cassie describes what’s going on. Papa formulates a plan to protect Stacey and T.J., even though it might put himself in danger. That Papa ignores Mama's pleas to be careful suggests that there are times when being careful is no longer an option.
Soon, Big Ma, Mama, Cassie and her brothers smell fire. The land and the cotton are burning, and Big Ma and Mama assume that the lightning started the fire. Mama and Big Ma order the children to stay inside as they go out and try to fight the fire. When it’s close to dawn, Jeremy Simms shows up to check on them. He says that everyone’s fighting the fire still: the Simms, Mr. Granger, the Wallaces, Papa, Stacey, everyone. As Jeremy turns to leave, rain starts to fall, and the children cheer.
The entire community bands together to protect the land, which brings everyone together in the end. T.J.’s case is momentarily forgotten as white and black neighbors fight the fire for a common cause, and at least gives a glimpse of hope for some kind of way past racism in the future: a mutual need for and love of the land.
Cassie and Little Man go out to survey the damage at dawn, but Christopher-John refuses to go with them. They see white men and black men working side by side, trying to put out the fire to save the land. When the Logan women return home, Mama tells the children what happened. When the fire started, Mr. Granger stopped the Simms and the Wallaces from hanging T.J. and instead got everyone to fight the fire. Cassie is suspicious about where Papa was throughout all of this, and she worries that too much of their cotton was destroyed, and they won’t be able to pay taxes. Mama assures her that they’ll be able to pay.
At the same time, there is something illusory in this togetherness to save the land, as it seems likely that Papa has sacrificed his own land in order to save T.J., and it’s possible that the Logans won’t, despite Mama's assurances, have enough of their cotton crop left to support themselves and keep their land.
Before they go to bed, Cassie asks Stacey about what happened. Stacey says that Mr. Jamison tried to stop the Wallaces, but they pushed his car off the road They were about to take off with T.J. when the smoke started. Mr. Granger then ordered the men to hand T.J. over to Mr. Jamison, and everyone went to put out the fire. Papa and Mr. Morrison arrive home now, followed by Mr. Jamison. Mr. Jamison reports that Mr. Barnett has died from his injuries, and he tells Papa to lie low and not give anyone a reason to connect him with what happened—at this point, Cassie realizes that Papa was the one who started the fire.
Now it is clear that Papa made a major sacrifice for the community when he chose to set the land on fire to save T.J. The Logan family has worked throughout the book in order to keep their land, and now Papa has purposefully burned it in order to distract Harlan Granger.
Mr. Jamison leaves, and Papa tells Cassie and Stacey that T.J.’s in jail now, awaiting a severe punishment, possibly death. Stacey runs away at this news, heading into the forest. Cassie cries, but she goes to bed, thinking about everything that happened the night before. She cries for T.J., knowing that he’ll never get to run free again like they will, and she cries for the land.
The novel does not end on a particularly hopeful note, as Cassie realizes that the land—and everything it symbolizes for the Logan family—has been damaged, and possibly for nothing. T.J. may still be executed, and justice still won’t be served to the Simms boys.