Fire Hazards

Helen Row Toews

At work yesterday, while happily boiling water to make a cup of cocoa, I was made keenly aware of the fire hazards involved in such an act. Anne, the wellness coordinator at my school, asked me to disconnect the kettle immediately after use, explaining how easily small appliances can combust. Immediately I thought of the one I’d left plugged in at home. Yikes! Since this is good information to consider, I’m passing it along.

Of course, it wouldn’t be my first kitchen fire. Once, at the tender age of twelve, I felt the need to eat a fried egg. (Fried eggs aren’t usually the basis of a good story, but I’m going to give it a shot.) It was winter, and for some reason I was at home alone, an oversight I’m sure my parents later regretted. In those days, we fried food in bacon fat.

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There were no unpleasant repercussions to our health for such cooking methods, and no dire warnings of cholesterol or saturated fats that I recall. In any case, I scraped a pound of hardened grease into the fry pan and turned the element to high before settling myself in front of the television to watch an episode of The Flintstones.

Was an entire pound really necessary you ask? Should I have left a boiling vat of lard unattended, you enquire? Of course not, but I was 12 and a bit of a nut.

Soon, my attention was dragged away from Fred and Wilma by oily, black clouds of smoke that rolled lazily across the ceiling above me. GOOD GRIEF! I leapt from my chair to see a four foot wall of hungry orange flames licking the kitchen ceiling. I raced to the stove, trying to remember what Smokey the Bear had done in this situation, but couldn’t recall Smokey ever frying eggs.

Wait! He’d cover the blaze. I snatched a thin metal lid off the counter and threw it on. The lid promptly melted into a horrid, twisted puddle, but at least the fire was out. I grabbed a tea towel, and using it to shield my arm, turned off the element. However, smoke still poured from the heated fat. Lifting everything with the towel, I made to rush outside and pitch the whole mess into a drift, but it was too hot. I was forced to set the pan down immediately – right onto the shiny new linoleum Dad had recently applied to our kitchen floor. You can imagine how that turned out.

As we see, I’ve had a nasty go-round with a kitchen appliance before. It was quite some time ago and it could be hoped I’d learned from my mistakes, but I have a crummy memory.

Today while chugging along in my school bus, I glanced up and noticed a smoky jet-trail in the sky. Rats! I’d forgotten the blasted appliances again. Groaning, I envisioned a raging inferno engulfing my happy home; the fluffy faces of my three innocent cats pressed to the windows, pleading for release. And all thanks to my selfish desire for a hot beverage. Thank you, Anne, for opening my eyes to this folly. I shall never be the same happy-go-lucky, carefree woman again.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get home and unplug the kettle.

Follow Helen at myprairiewool.com

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