Standing in their way is a group of 25-year-old men with sticks. Why 25? Because that's the age where boys become men -- so why not have them prove it by facing down the entire rest of the village, who have suddenly been possessed by drunken pyromancers?
And so the battle is joined: Alcohol-fueled villagers swing their torches at the increasingly nervous guards, who try to stave off fiery destruction for as long as possible. And not just because they really like new construction (it's the sign of a booming economy!): See, there are a bunch of 42-year-old men at the top of the shrine. They must be 42 because, in Japanese, 42 translates to shi ni, which alternately means "to die." Their goal is to symbolically cheat death by escaping the burning building before it goes up, which is somewhat arrogantly assuming that they won't die in the ensuing blaze.
The fort includes an escape ladder. The ladder is not fireproof.