When people say just wait for the dust to settle, they have clearly never (ever) used a home fire extinguisher. I hadn’t either until the other night. Let me tell you, it’s not nearly as fun as you think it’s going to be, like when people who are rolling around aimlessly in space use an extinguisher to direct them back to the space station. That looks like fun. Regular old kitchen usage? Not so much.
See, I was cooking beets. This was clearly my first mistake seeing as how I don’t really like beets. But they are cool and pretty and it was date night with my boyfriend/partner/SO/sweetie. (Our new year’s resolutions dictated Tuesday would become date night. This was the inaugural.) So I roasted beets wrapped in aluminum foil at about 450 degrees in preparation for a lovely puree and a lovely dinner before a half-priced movie.
Five minutes in, I remembered to put in a pan to catch drippings. That’s when I saw the fire. OK, flame. Whatever. It was an inch and half high and sparking from the bottom coil burner. It flickered. It spiked. It seemed like it was snaking down the burner ever so slowly. I panicked.
I’ve dealt in stovetop fires before. Baking soda did the trick. So I fumbled for the baking soda hidden in the cabinet next to the stove. I dumped some on the flame. Nothing. Still burning.
Wait. Didn’t I hear you weren’t supposed to use baking soda now? No. Maybe water? Should I pour water on it?
I know what you’re thinking: electrical stove + water = bad idea. But I wasn’t thinking. Logic melted into pure panic. So sure, I poured some water in a glass and then flicked some on the burner. I made that flame angry. It jumped to two inches. Sparking and shouting. I shut the oven door to “turn off” the oxygen supply. (I learned that from a Kurt Russell movie.) The flame backed down. Then just the coil pulsed red. And then the flame came back. And it wouldn’t budge.
I needed a stronger weapon. I pulled the fire extinguisher from under the sink. This is the fire extinguisher I looked at three months ago and thought: I should learn how to use that and instead went back to doting over my kombucha SCOBY. Good little bacteria colony. La lalalalala. Maybe I’ll make almond milk now! Kumbaya! So I didn’t exactly learn how to extinguish a fire. My kombucha turned out real good though.
Have you ever noticed how much fine print is on the casing of a fire extinguisher? It’s like a million flashing warning signs. And there’s this pin involved, like on a hand grenade. Like something you’re not supposed to mess with unless you’re REALLY serious. Pulled pins make bad things happen. So the flame was burning and I was trying to read instructions, but the words just piled together, literally leaping onto themselves.
I called Eric. He would know what to do. I fumbled through the phone touch screen while hopping from side to side and whining something to the effect of ooooo oh no no no [wimper wimper] no.
“How big is the flame? Did you turn the oven off? Do you need to leave the house?” His worry made me think perhaps mine was overstated. But still the flame was burning steadily. Defiantly. Against me.
I tiptoed across our black and white tile to switch off the oven. Nothing happened. There was one thing left to do to save my two cats and rental house with leaky pipes and splintery floor. Fire extinguisher.
“How do I use this?”
Eric explained I probably had to pull the pin out but that he was driving home and he didn’t really know for sure. “Do you want to call 911?”
I grew determined. No 911. No fire trucks for a two-inch flame. That’s crazy.
The instructions finally came into focus and then I realized they are probably the easiest I’ve ever read.
1. Pull pin.
2. Stand six feet back.
A thick gush of pink powder enveloped the oven – the entire kitchen. The flame burned on. I tried a little more, a little longer. The flame flickered despite the pink haze that sent me out the back door coughing and the cats scurrying for safety below beds upstairs.
I went back in. A third, extra-long spray did nothing. And so it would be. 911. Fire trucks.
It’s amazing how quickly it all happens. The call goes in. You give your address and there is no return button. No take backs even as, while you talk to the 911 operator, the flame flickers out without even a thread of smoke. “Are you sure you can’t tell them not to come?” I plead with the operator. Nope. Once it’s in, it’s in. Standing back out on the deck to cough out fumes, I saw Eric sprint from his car. [Swoon.] Everything was in motion. And the flame was out.
We surveyed the mess just as flashing lights reflected in the windows. Two trucks and a man with an axe ready to break through something. My head hung low when we told them there was no fire. No flame. No nothing. I whispered an apology. The fire people (men and women!) came in anyway, yellow storm troopers bounding through the house. We stood in the layer of pink dust staring inside the oven at … nothing. I explained what happened. It was good I called, they said. They had other questions, too, like did I turn off the breaker? Did we know what a fucking mess it was going to be to clean up?
Four hours later, after washing every last exposed item in the kitchen and shop-vacking all the way to the second floor because that pink powder has legs, there was still a layer of dust. And date night was a bust, though I’m 100 percent positive Eric was fine with it. Final words with his head in the stove, vacuuming: “You can get me a shop-vac for my birthday.”