I had a pretty scary accident recently in my home.
I nearly burned our house down. And I’m not exaggerating. That’s my less-than-one-year-old stove in that picture up there, my flour bin and my counter tops covered with residue from the fire and fire extinguisher.
Let’s see if I can lay it all out in a way that makes sense.
I was teleworking that day. Early that morning, I’d thrown some bread dough together in my stand mixer and set it aside to rise. Honestly, I forgot about it until lunch. At lunch, I saw it spilling out of my mixer bowl and quickly pulled down my rather large plastic flour bin so I could get it into a loaf pan to rise another hour.
I hadn’t used the stove for any cooking that day. I had an empty pot from supper sitting on the back right eye that I’d boiled pasta in. I scooped out some flour and sprinkled it on the top of the dough and on my hands and then popped the top back on and set it on top of that empty pot. Then I got to work shaping the loaf and getting it on to rise again before baking it off.
At some point, I guess I bumped the plastic flour bin and it fell back against the back of the stove.It hit the button that controls the eye and turned it on without my knowing it. Since it was such a large bin, I didn’t see the red light come on the back part of the stove.
I covered the dough and walked to the back of the house to do a few other things while I was on my lunch break. I guess it was about 5 minutes or so when I started to smell something. My first thought was that I’d lit a candle and was smelling it. But I didn’t remember lighting a candle so I got up and went back to the front of the house.
When I hit the end of the hallway, I saw the flames. They were probably two feet high, nearly to the stove hood. After a few choice words, I ran closer and knew I couldn’t turn the stove off. I reached under the sink and grabbed one of the two fire extinguishers we had. The one we had used before, didn’t work. Thank goodness we’d had the sense of mind to buy another one after the grill caught fire with Hunter at our house.
Fortunately, I was able to put the fire out quickly with the second extinguisher. It took a couple of sprays and made the hugest mess ever, but the fire was out.
Now here’s the speculation part. What really caused the fire? Here’s what I think.
The bin was plastic so as the pan heated up, the plastic became pliable and eventually melted. As it melted, the flour left in the bin fell out into the pan and began to slowly heat up and burn. Add to that, there was “flour dust” in the air as it slowly fell into the pan (wheat dust is flammable). Now, add to that the fact that plastic slowly oozed down the side of the pan and hit the eye and there were a number of reasons why there was a fire happening on my stove.
I got lucky. I was able to quickly and efficiently put the fire out. Our house was ok. There was minimal damage and I am ok. Despite some mistakes (not paying attention, not enough smoke detectors), I did a few things right. I didn’t panic. I grabbed our fire extinguisher and immediately put it to use. Once it was out, I used pot holders to move the pan and debris to our sink and added water.
But I want you to know one important thing.
What didn’t happen when the fire broke out on my stove
The one smoke detector we have in our hallway, it didn’t go off. At all. Even after the front of our house filled with smoke so thick that I started coughing. You couldn’t see. And the smoke detector stayed off.
The lesson that I learned is this: one smoke detector in our hallway is not enough. Our house is about 1800 square feet and is a single level ranch style. It’s pretty compact and simple in design with one hallway leading bathrooms and bedrooms. The hallway ends in our living room and the living room opens immediate to our kitchen/dining room. It’s a simple layout.
Our smoke detector didn’t go off because it was too far away from the fire. I never considered a fire in the kitchen while I wasn’t in there. But it happened and because it did, I will be installing a few more smoke detectors, particularly the kitchen and laundry room. Even though we have one centrally located near the bedrooms in our hallway, I am adding smoke detectors in each bedroom. We use electric baseboard heaters in the winter in the bedrooms so we need them in each room where those will be used. Is this overkill? Maybe, but I don’t really care. My family’s safety is more important.
It is recommended that you have one in every bedroom and on each level of your home. I think you definitely want one in your kitchen and laundry room because those two rooms are “hot zones” for fire with the stove and dryer. We are also adding one to our living room because we heat with a wood stove. Right now, I plan to get a combination smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector for the living room.
And another thing about putting out a fire…
Do you have a fire extinguisher? When my friends heard my story, most of them said the same thing: “I don’t even have a fire extinguisher.” Thank God I did. The fire extinguisher saved my house.
Fire extinguishers are something that none of us want to spend money on but they might be the thing that saves your home. Once you use your extinguisher, you will need to purchase another one unless you find a company that will recharge them (as I learned with the first extinguisher I tried). We only have one extinguisher in our kitchen but I think we need to keep one in our “hot zones.” I also think we should put one in our master bedroom since it is on the opposite end of the house.
For me, what could have been a total tragedy ended up being one of the scariest experiences of my life. We got lucky though. The stove is okay, despite the fire. There is no smoke damage, only a few burn marks on the floor from when I moved the pan (the stainless steel metal pan melted on the bottom and was dripping when I moved the pan…I didn’t realize this until it was too late). I burned my foot on the bottom stepping on the metal when it hit the floor and I love a pair of flip-flops that were laying in front of the stove.
But my house is okay and I’m okay. That’s what I choose to focus on. Well, that and adding a few more safety measures to our home.
I hope you learned something from what I shared with you today. I also hope you’ll take my advice and add some more smoke detectors, check the batteries in the smoke detectors you have and spend the money on fire extinguishers. I can promise you that you won’t regret it in those moments when a fire happens at your home.
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