Generally speaking, “How to start a fire in your kitchen” is not a positive title to start a food column with, but it’s ratings week- do what will get you noticed! Now that I have your attention and probably my insurance agents as well as the fire chief, I will try and keep this simple…
Fire, fire, burning bright
I was multitasking (talking on the phone, cooking, and scanning FB) and I decided I wanted hash browns for supper. So I grabbed a skillet and some vegetable oil. Poured the vegetable oil in and turned on the burner and put a lid on the skillet. Simple enough, but I have been known to take simplicity to complicated levels frustrating my parents, teachers and my husband.
After what only seemed like a moment, well maybe several moments strung together, I pulled out my hash browns and laid them on the counter. Looking down at the covered skillet I was surprised to see what looked like smoke inside the skillet. Weird!? Lifting the lid off the skillet, I set the lid on the counter next to the stove, looked back to the skillet just in time to see it IGNITE! BOOF!
Stunned, my mouth dropped open and I said to myself “I think you found the flash point of vegetable oil! DO. SOMETHING. QUICK!” The best I could muster was to yell “HELP Brad!” and grab the skillet handle and take it off the stove.
Stop Drop and Roll
As I was moving away from the stove the flames were growing higher and higher (fire loves oxygen). Brad wasn’t answering my calls for help, so “Flight or Fright” kicked in and I quickly made the decision to put the skillet into the sink. First I thought I should have opened the patio door and threw it outside, but the rising flames convinced me otherwise. Now that the skillet was in the sink my mind gave me two options: water or smother.
At first, my instinct was to want to put water on it, but I quickly remembered the demonstration I had seen of what happens when you add water to an oil fire (thank you Ms. Arverson! My high school, chemistry class teacher). Then as quickly as I thought of that I remembered that this type of fire was needing to be smothered. So I grabbed a dish towel, got it soaking wet and threw it on top of the oil bonfire in the skillet.
At this point Brad comes storming into the kitchen, a fashion complexity to be sure. He was all business on top and at-home- casual on the bottom. I am sure he thought I was trying out some new cool recipe like bananas foster, or a baked Alaska flambe. But to his great disappointment, NOPE! This was just your average, run of the mill, supper time flash point fire. I think every couple needs to have a good skillet fire just to test the merits of their relationship.
How do you manage to do this kind of stuff?
Brad backs me away from the decreasing flames and makes sure the skillet is completely covered by the wet dish towel. Seeing that the flames are extinguished, I let out a sigh of relief. Brad, with a very serious look, says “So, just what were you doing?” To which I replied, ” I thought I would find the flash point of vegetable oil?” Unimpressed he rolled his eyes and surveyed the damage.
My favorite fry pan had some serious scorch marks on the inside and outside of the pan. The sink sustained some scorch marks also. I was relieved that I didn’t get burned and that the flames didn’t start anything else on fire.
Some handy tips
I found a great article online by Rikki Roehrich, a FireRescue1 contributor. Rikki reports that
” Cooking causes over 160,000 home structure fires, annually, and is considered the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. Of the 160,000 annual cooking fires, two-thirds (66 percent) started with the ignition of food or other cooking materials. Often, these fires are ignited by grease.” He also listed a few tips which I will share with you now.
IF A GREASE FIRE STARTS:
- Cover the flames with a metal lid or cookie sheet. Leave the cover on until it has cooled.
- Turn off the heat source.
- If it’s small and manageable, pour baking soda or salt on it to smother the fire.
- As a last resort, spray the fire with a Class B dry chemical fire extinguisher.
- Do not try to extinguish the fire with water.
- Do not attempt to move the pot or pan outside.
After that theatrical cooking segment, I decided that we would have instant potatoes, which were much less dramatic in their production. All’s well that ends well.
P.S. And There’s More: Mandy’s Kitchen Fire Story
Finally, My jelly was made… I began melting down some paraffin in a saucepan on the stove. Read more…
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Michele Bruxvoort is sure to draw you in with her delightful sense of humor and love for living life. She enjoys reading, repurposing, as well as remodeling the family home with her husband. Drawing from her life experience as wife, mom, and follower of Jesus, Michele brings you a very honest and real perspective on life. When you don’t find her writing, you can find her mowing lawns, stocking shelves, taking care of her grandbaby and tackling her latest life adventure.
Wisconsin native and empty-nester, she now makes her home with her husband of 27 years in the South West Prairie plains of Minnesota.