Christmas Kitchen Fire and Family Fire Safety
My sister’s house caught on fire on Christmas day and it was kind of my fault. You see, we were Skyping her for the first time. My husband and brother-in-law had set up a Skype time so that we could talk to her family and my mom on Christmas day. We were in our family room. They were in their garage where my brother-in-law has his photography lab set up.
Our roast was in the oven and it was mid-afternoon our time on the East Coast. They were three hours back and were between Christmas events having come back from a family Christmas brunch and headed out to a dinner in a few hours.
We were chatting pleasantly with my mom and brother-in-law. My niece and nephew were playing in their house but my kids were crowded around our computer. My sister joined us for five minutes. She returned to the kitchen and all of a sudden we heard, “Fire!”
There was some scrambling. We saw my sister and brother-in-law rush past us, fire extinguishers in hand (the small kind).
“Someone call the fire department!”
“Get the hose!”
“No, it’s an oil fire. Don’t use water.”
“Get the kids out!”
Finally, they said they had to go as black smoke plumed across the computer Skype screen.
My nearly 90-year-old mother opened the garage door and hobbled outside.
We were in shock! We prayed my sister and family would not lose their house. She’s a piano teacher and all I could think was her concert grand piano ruined from water or fire. 10 very tense minutes passed. We felt so terrible that they were Skyping us and this caused their fire.
Then, we got this image texted to us:
The fire was out and it was contained to the stove area. My sister was heating oil to fry dumplings for the party and when she stepped away for those 5 short minutes, her stove somehow burst into flames. The cabinets and hood were in flames.
She had 2 small fire extinguishers in her house. But … a cautionary warning:
- Two were not enough.
- She said they lasted about 5 seconds each.
- One put out the pan.
- The other put out the side cabinets.
- My brother-in-law put out the hood fire with the hose.
- The fire extinguishers were also confusing to use. You actually DON’T pull down on the handle to release. Instead there is a small button the top. Luckily my sister figured it out.
The fire department arrived within 10 minutes. The fire was out thanks to the quick thinking of my sister and brother-in-law but they said had they not put it out, their house would have been destroyed. If the fire had penetrated the vent above the hood, it would have raced uncontrolled throughout their house. If they had tried water on the stove, it would have spread and even caused third degree burns like a similar fire a week ago in their town.
Fire Family Drill
This has prompted my husband to buy additional fire extinguishers and mount them throughout the house. We also have folding ladders in the upstairs bedrooms. He wants us to conduct a family fire drill.
We haven’t done the fire drill yet but I’ll post on it when we do. It’s a cold and slippery to be climbing out of a second story window in the dead of a New England winter.
My sister says the large fire extinguishers are better but they are heavy. I’d personally opt for 5 or more of the smaller ones throughout your house.
As for my sister’s house, they were very, very lucky. They were also good under pressure. It saved their house. Despite the limited damage, they still had to move out of their house to get a special smoke cleaning crew who spent a week getting the soot and odor out of their house. She’s now in the process of redoing her kitchen so I guess that is the silver lining to this near tragedy.
Our lesson: never Skype anyone who’s cooking!
p.s. My husband likes Beavis and Butthead so this is his contribution…