How I almost burned the house down

Sunday started out really well.

We had completed chores on Saturday to ensure our Sabbath would be distraction-free.  All three of us woke up reasonably rested.  We enjoyed each other’s company over smoothies and french toast.  And then Jason headed off to Sunday school.  Ian & I were to get dressed and meet him an hour later at church.

I put a kettle of water on the stove for tea.  Then mother’s intuition told me that Ian needed to do some business in the bathroom.  So, I thought, we’d head upstairs and I’d do my hair while Ian relaxed on the commode.

You can see where this is going . . . I forgot about the water on the stove.  Which, although it probably would’ve burnt my tea kettle, would not have been incredibly disastrous.  But as I was flat ironing my hair I started to smell a faint bacon odor coming up from the heat vent.

That’s weird, I thought.  We didn’t have bacon for breakfast.  Hmmm.  And then I went back to my hair and my potty coaching.

Then all of the sudden I heard the downstairs smoke detector go off.  Well, actually, it was all three smoke detectors.  I ran downstairs to find the kitchen filling up with smoke and a frying pan ON FIRE.  It was like what you see on Iron Chef, except not really like that at all.

I yelled.  And then I reached down below the sink for the fire extinguisher.  For a brief second I thought “Is this really necessary?  It seems like such a dramatic thing to do.”

And then I answered myself “YES!!!”

I would’ve added the drama had I been able to figure out how to use the darn extinguisher.  But alas, my brief two-second attempt failed.  I took the red pin out and pulled the plastic handle forward, which did absolutely nothing.  If I would’ve persisted a little longer I probably would’ve realized I needed to squeeze.

I dropped the extinguisher and went looking for something that would hold water.  There was a bowl.  Again I thought to myself “Is this what I should be doing?”

Little did I know that if I decided to pour I would be doing so on a bacon grease fire. Twenty minutes before when I had thought I was heating water in my kettle, I was really turning on the back burner, which was housing the remains of a bacon cook-off two days ago.

If you were me and you were the kind to think reasonably and calmly in such situations, you would decide NOT to pour water on the fire.  You would imagine yourself with severe burns and a burned down kitchen.  Or maybe you just imagine yourself dead.  And you’d decide it’s not really worth it.

I didn’t do any of this.  I had no idea about the grease.  I just saw FIRE in front of my eyes.  And so I poured.

Oddly, the flames hissed, rose up to the exhaust fan, and then went out.

Whew.  I was relieved.  But I would’ve been even more relieved had I known I had just done something incredibly stupid and was still alive to tell the tale.

There was no time to brow beat myself, pertinent information or not.  The house was filled up with smoke and I had a toddler still upstairs on the toilet (one who HATES the sound of smoke detectors or my yelling voice).  Who knew what kind of state he was in.

Through coughing and stinging eyes I opened the sliding door in the kitchen to get some of the smoke out and then ran upstairs.  Ian was still sitting there, bless his soul.  I grabbed him and ran downstairs and outside to the deck.

We stood there for a few moments and I tried to reassure him we were okay.  I’m not sure that he heard me, since all the alarms in our house were going off and he had his hands over his ears.

At some point I decided I needed to go back in and open more windows and get the smoking pan off the stove and outside.  I set him down (sans pants or underwear, poor thing) and told him to wait there for me.

I realize now that was stupid.  What does my scared, protective, first-born do?  Run into the house after me.

There was no real danger at that point (except some mild smoke inhalation), but it freaks me out to think about him running after me into a burning house, should the house have really been burning down.  But then again, why would I be running in?  I don’t know, but it’s clear I’m known to do stupid things when an emergency arises.

Once the pan was outside and the downstairs windows were wide open we stood out on the deck for a while.  You could hear all our smoke detectors.  The neighborhood looked peaceful–I wondered why no one noticed the commotion.

We sat down and I did the best I could to explain to Ian what was going on without further scaring him.  God had protected us, I said, and we were okay.  The loud noise would stop soon.  He didn’t cry, but I know he was scared.  And I felt terrible because I wanted my words to erase his memory of the whole thing and they couldn’t.

I eventually called Jason and told him what happened.  He didn’t seem too concerned once he knew the fire was out.  I, on the other hand, wanted him to be VERY concerned.  Needless to say, my response to him was not one of my finer wifely moments.  But I will say to all husbands out there–the correct answer, no matter how dire the situation, is “I’m coming home right away!”

When Jason got home, the smoke had cleared out but we were still in the backyard.  I tried to explain more of what happened and as he was making sense of the situation he said “Did you know that pan was filled with bacon grease?”

“No . . . but I guess that’s why I smelled bacon up the heat vent.”

Jason: “Did you know that putting water on grease is the wrong thing to do?  It spreads the fire.”


I was ugly.  Again, not one of finer moments.

So then, why didn’t the fire spread?

Because of this:

A splatter shield that Jordan & Elysia gave us because they had one too many (if I didn’t say it then, thank you friends!).  We use it all the time when we’re cooking and it gets left sitting on top of the pan on the stove until we get around to dishes. When I poured the water on the fire the grease splashed up and hit the guard and the fire extinguished.

As I thought about the whole situation later on that morning, I felt overwhelmed.  The adrenaline had worn off and other emotions started to set in. I realized how much more scary and dangerous it could’ve been.  I thought about how much more God had protected Ian & I than I had initially thought.  Despite our prior negligence.  Through my ignorance.  Through a grease shield.

I will admit that I often lay at night wondering what could happen while we’re asleep.  An earthquake.  A fire.  A scary person breaking in.  Some act of terrorism.  Though terrifying at any time of day, it seems more scary at night because I know I won’t be there watching, aware, awake.

What comforts me in those moments?  Honestly, sometimes nothing.  But sometimes I think about this verse: “I will lay down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psa 4:8).

If David can say that when a crazy man is chasing him down to kill him, then I really have no reason not to pray that.

But what about during the day? Why do I think I am more in control then?  Clearly this fire shows that I am not.   I am still ignorant, mistaken, human.  And God is still God.  And so the prayer is the same “I will go about the day in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

I am trying that out.  It’s not very easy.  Being pregnant isn’t helping my cause.  Sometimes my fear coupled with my raging progesterone and estrogen makes me feel like I could maul a wild bear should it shoot a glance at my child.  But I am thankful that regardless of my success in trusting God from one day to the next, He is in control all the time.

And He is for me and my family–no matter what we find ourselves in.

5 responses to “How I almost burned the house down

  1. So glad you guys are safe! I was just wondering where that verse was this morning oddly enough! Hugs

  2. Great retelling of your harrowing experience! Glad you’re safe and have the cautionary tale to share with the rest of us. Good reminder about who is in charge after all.

    (And I would have totally thrown water on it too. )

  3. Wow, what a dramatic Sunday for you! So glad there was no fire and you guys are okay!!

  4. We have a similar story… 😉

    Your account is beautifully written. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time! Glad you all are safe.

    I know it’s cliche, but you do “live and learn.”

  5. Thank you for this post. Lord knows I feel this way TOO often. Cheers to your happy family. 🙂

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