(The New Year is here, most likely the tree has been hauled out and the candles have been lovingly placed in the closet. I shared this almost a year ago and thought this morning, now is a good time for a gentle reminder... To PLEASE make the time for Fire Safety! I am the first to admit that I panicked. My boys, on the other hand... Good God! Did *I* teach them that? Well, maybe it was their dad. Give me blood. Give me vomit. Give me a person that needs a good cry... and I will most likely know just what to do. Give me fire... in my house... with my children present... and my curtains burning... and obviously, well, obviously I am pleased that it is not MY name in the papers as the dimwit who burned her family's home down. Lesson learned, alright! Think Before You Act! I wish all my readers a happy, healthy and safe 2012!)
We hear it when we're little, “Stop Drop and Roll”. We heard it, at least four times a year, as we followed lazily after one another through the school building, out into either a cold and blustery day or a searingly hot one, “Walk swiftly and quietly toward your exit boys and girls”. We hear it, even as we sternly warn our own children, fear gripping our hearts, “Don’t touch that stove – Don’t play with those matches – Don’t forget, little ones, Mommy and Daddy will come for you. Stay where you are!”
So why is it, like oil and water, all of the fire safety warnings I’ve filed away in my brain since childhood simply separated themselves, alongside the panic rising in my chest, from any of my somewhat-rational, usually dependable reasoning skills yesterday – sinking to the bottom of the towering inferno I had mistakenly created in my kitchen.
I stepped out of my kitchen onto our deck, for no more than a few minutes, after setting a small skillet with roughly a quarter inch of cooking oil on the burner. It completely slipped my mind that I had already turned on the heat – as I walked away from it, distracted. This is where my good sense deserted me completely. Honestly, it is with disgust and shame that I admit here today to you all, that I did Everything Wrong – Everything I knew I should not have done. All I know is, the moment I saw flames blazing on my stove top, my fear of losing Everything took over.
One third of all house fires start in our kitchens, folks – and are generally caused by something as simple as leaving what you have cooking on the stove unattended. Those involving grease can be exceptionally volatile.
Now, I have forgotten my keys were in my very hands, as I turned over the house searching for them – a time or two over the years. I have forgotten to turn off the water to the barn, thereby watering every moss-covered rock in creation. (Wish the pony pasture would have been in the way!) I have even forgotten my age, on occasion – sometimes on purpose. And to answer your question, no, I do not suffer with excessive memory loss. Hmmmnnn… at least, I don’t think so. My memory is probably no better or worse than any mother of three children with a small farm, a large mortgage, multiple dogs, cats, chickens, bunnies, horses and any number of other critters that come and go to love and manage! I lead a busy life. Don't we all.
This is that moment – the one where I read about someone else’s misfortune and think, well, I’m more mindful than that, right? I’ve heard all of the warnings. I know what to do, where to run, where our children are, where our pets are, where the fire extinguisher is – oh, wait – we DO have a fire extinguisher, right? Maybe I should locate it and make sure I know how to use it. Eh, maybe tomorrow.
Speaking clearly from the other side of “tomorrow” – this glorious other side, where my children are safe, I have no more than a few small blisters on my arms and face, little more than new window curtains to replace, and our home with all of our treasures and memories still standing – Please Do Not Wait for Tomorrow!
LOCATE your fire extinguisher!
KEEP it in the kitchen!
KNOW how to use it!
And NEVER, EVER WALK AWAY from oil, in a pan, on the burner!
Not even for a minute! It takes less than ONE to lose EVERYTHING!
And, HERE – is where, what I thought I knew about grease fires, kicked the butt of what I really knew about grease fires!
MY FIRST MISTAKE.
Instinct, not knowledge – told me to grab the skillet with a hand towel and walk it slowly through my kitchen and outdoors.
#1 Rule of Grease Fire Safety: NEVER try to move the pan. This can make a bad situation MUCH worse.
When fire licked at my wrist as I carried the flaming skillet across my kitchen and hot oil spit into my face, my heart raced, propelling me into Survival Mode – Throw it into the sink, I thought. My eyes shot upward then over the kitchen sink at the pretty lace curtains I had just washed not a week ago, trembling slightly with the billowing cloud of smoke as the flames grew higher. Panic screamed, WATER! My brain whispered... no.
MY SECOND MISTAKE.
Who knew water would not only NOT put out a grease fire, but it would make it grow bigger? I didn’t – that’s who. Yes, I had heard that you should not throw water on a grease fire. I won’t tell you that I thought it might simply produce gremlins, and only if after midnight. I might say if you had read my post, "When I Start", that I was going to start my period tomorrow. But then, that seems a bit smug.
#2 Rule of Grease Fire Safety: NEVER, EVER throw WATER on a GREASE FIRE! It can cause it to explode and will cause it to throw flaming grease with it!
I panicked, reaching for the faucet and my two boys, ages seventeen and twelve yelled simultaneously, ‘No!’ I’d like to say thank you to hours of “Mythbusters” reruns on the Discovery channel Saturday mornings. I would also like to thank our local volunteer fire department who first showed our children the awesomeness of a fire hose.
But, it was our oldest son, Will who acted – so fast, in fact, that I have he alone to thank for saving our home and all that that entails. The moment the rushing water ignited the flames further toward the curtains, the cabinets and the ceiling, he bolted down two flights of stairs to his room and returned seconds later with... whaddya know... a fire extinguisher. I am reminded now after almost five hours of clean up in my kitchen last night, where a fine yellow powder covered every surface and a fire was snuffed out, that we are truly fortunate to have been left with the mess that could be cleaned up, rather than picked through and hauled away!
Our home is intact, albeit needing some baking soda in the carpets – and possibly a coat of fresh paint on the kitchen and living room ceilings. Once the odor of grease and smoke clears from the house and I hang some new curtains we’ll be right as rain again and back to normal, with one exception.
I will never again NOT keep a working extinguisher under the kitchen sink – and thanks to some long overdue research, which took all of fifteen minutes, I will now know how to put out a grease fire.
GREASE FIRE SAFETY
1.Never throw water on a grease fire. It will cause it to explode. Righto!
2.Do Not throw Sugar OR Flour on a fire. They are combustible.
3.Never try to move a pan that is on fire. This can make things much worse. Got it!
4.Put a lid on it! SMOTHER a grease fire! Throw on an oven mitt and using either a lid or a cookie sheet, slide it over the pan – something that is fire proof that will not allow air in. If you can’t find the proper lid, grab one that is bigger but will fit snugly around the edge to cut off the fire’s air supply.
5.Shut off the burner and do not remove the lid until the pan is cooled 15 minutes.
A SECONDARY METHOD TO PUT OUT GREASE FIRES
Use a class B or BC or ABC fire extinguisher.
Should a grease fire occur, don’t panic. Humph! If you believe your safety is
in jeopardy, evacuate the house and call 911 from the neighbors. Don’t forget –
where there’s Fire, there’s Smoke! Carbon monoxide poisoning can have lasting
effects, even after you’ve gotten out of the house.
Caution: Fire extinguisher’s release so much pressure that it could tip the pan
or spread the burning grease if sprayed too close to the grease fire. So, if you
do use a fire extinguisher, start at a distance away and move towards the fire,
rather than locating the nozzle directly near the burning grease.
Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death from indoor fires.
Smoke rises, so GET DOWN and GET OUT quickly! And, NEVER, EVER go back into the house if the fire has not been contained! Wait for the fire department to arrive!
MY THIRD MISTAKE!
Install a smoke detector on each floor of your house or apartment, and one in the basement. They should be located close to sleeping areas and near the kitchen so that a cooking fire can be detected in its earliest stage. We had them outside of every bedroom and in the basement. We DID NOT have one on the same floor as the kitchen! Our reasoning was, if we placed one too near the cooking area it would be screaming at us every time a little smoke escaped. Had one been installed closer by, perhaps I would have reached it BEFORE the flames were uncontrollable and BEFORE thick, black, choking smoke had completely filled the entire first floor – from ceiling to my eye level!
When to Seek Medical Care for Smoke Inhalation
It wasn’t until the fire was out and we were all safely out of the house that I worried about how much smoke we may have inhaled into our lungs. If you suspect you or someone with you are having problems due to smoke inhalation, contact your doctor or go to the local emergency room for advice.
Seek medical attention if you or someone with you experience the following symptoms with smoke inhalation:
- Hoarse voice
- Difficulty breathing
- Prolonged coughing spells
- Mental confusion
- Decide whether to call an ambulance for assistance. Someone with smoke inhalation can get worse quickly. If such a person were transported by private vehicle, significant injury or death could occur on the way that might have been avoided if that person were taken by emergency medical services.
Slow Down – Be Prepared – Be Informed!
With Love! Scarlett