Monday, June 1, 2009

I came about thisclose to setting our kitchen on fire tonight. Not one of my proudest moments, that's for sure.

We made these tostadas for dinner sometime last week. Tonight, before my step aerobics class, I pulled the rest of the leftovers out of the fridge to make something to eat. We've made these many, many times now. They are part of our regular rotation, and we always have quite a bit of leftovers, so... crisping the tortillas under the broiler? NOT NEW TO ME.

Once the broiler was hot, I threw my tortilla on a pizza pan and tossed it under the broiler on the top rack. As always. Again, nothing new here. I started pulling some other supplies out of the fridge, and then had a panic moment when I realized I had forgotten about my tortilla. I opened the oven, it was a little brown, but to my relief, it was not burned. I pulled it out, flipped it over, and popped it back under the broiler to toast the other side.

I turned my head for what I swear was only 10 seconds, and when I looked back, my tortilla had caught fire. Michael was right there in the kitchen with me, so I yelled some expletives (gotta love my "curse like a sailor" habit) and said, "It's on fire!"

At this point, the story takes a turn for the dramatic. There likely wouldn't be a story if this next piece of key information was untrue.

You see... at this exact moment? The moment my tortilla caught on fire? We didn't have any water in our house.

I'm not kidding. I couldn't make this shit up.

When I got home, I fed and watered Tess like normal. Fifteen minutes later, when Michael got home, he tried to turn on the kitchen sink and nothing came out. Before you ask, we live in a development with a homeowner's association that pays for/supplies our water. So no, we didn't forget to pay the bill. (Come to find out later, our whole street was without water. We never did find out why.)

Anyway... when I noticed the tortilla had caught fire, it was just a small flame. My first instinct was to rip the pan out of the oven and douse it in the sink. But alas, NO WATER. So I couldn't do that. Instead, I snapped the oven door closed and turned off the oven, thinking that if I deprived the flames of oxygen, it would go out on its own. I watched through the oven door as the whole tortilla burnt to a crisp, but the problem was, the flame wouldn't go out completely. And a ton of smoke was starting to billow out of the cracks on the top of the stove. NOT GOOD.

Michael grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge (where it came from, I have no idea--we never buy bottled water), and the flame got really small, so I thought maybe we could pull it out and douse it with the bottle of water. Unfortunately, when I opened the door, the rush of oxygen fed the flames and it flamed right back up again.

More expletives.

Michael grabbed our little fire extinguisher out from under the kitchen sink, and prepared to use it. I opened the oven a crack again, and this time, flames started shooting out of it. Um, yeah. Things were escalating quickly. I shut it quickly again, then Michael and I basically did a "on the count of three..." thing. I opened the door one final time, and Michael let the extinguisher do its job.

It didn't take much extinguishing. The fire was out immediately. The bad news was that our entire living area (kitchen, dining area, living room) was now completely filled with smoke. Thick, nasty, can't-breathe smoke.

All from an f-ing flaming tortilla, people.

We opened up all of our windows and brought a fan out to help dissipate some of the smoke. Soon enough, the smoke was gone, but the smell? Not so much.

A little while later, we left to go to the gym. I could smell it on me during my entire class; it was disgusting.

When we got back to our house, we were overwhelmed with how badly it smells in here. Now that we've been back for a while, we're kind of used to it, I think. Luckily, it isn't very smelly in our bedroom, so we can sleep with clean air. We're going to leave the windows open tonight (and probably the rest of the damn week!) to help air things out.

There isn't any permanent smoke damage, but the smell is just... ugh. Think of the smell when you burn popcorn (like REALLY badly burn it). Multiply that by like 10. That's what our house smells like. I feel lucky that's all we're dealing with, though.

The fire only actually lasted like a minute or two (even though it felt like an eternity), and things certainly escalated quickly. I can totally see how things can get out of hand and people end up burning their houses down. If we didn't have a fire extinguisher, I'm not sure what would have happened.

Thank the lord for those volunteer firefighter brothers I have, who gave us our fire extinguishers (we have a few stationed throughout the house). I'd like to think we would be smart enough to have them even if my brothers hadn't given them to us, but who the hell knows.

PSA #1: Don't have a fire extinguisher? GET ONE. At least one.

We also learned that our smoke detector still works. Though I noticed that it took a while to go off, seeing as how it's in the hallway near our bedrooms/bathroom. (Our place isn't very big. Only one floor.) So I'm thinking maybe we should install a second one in the living room or something so that if a fire ever starts in the kitchen, we'll know about it sooner rather than later.

PSA #2: Make sure you have enough smoke detectors installed. And if you have them installed already, check their batteries.

Oh, and if anyone has any tips on removing smoke smells from houses? Please let me know! As I mentioned, right now we're just leaving the windows wide open whenever possible, but it sucks because it is quite cold here this week (only in the 60s). We're also burning scented candles as much as possible.

I can't get over it. I have been cooking/baking since I was like 9 years old. I have never started a fire before.

And now, all of this fuss over a TORTILLA! Who knew tortillas were so flammable?!


Justine June 2, 2009 at 1:09 PM  

Oh man! This reminds of the time my DH started a grease fire, TWO days in a row. And tried to BLOW THEM OUT both times. He almost burned off his eyebrows!

As for the smoke smell, try Febreze. My parents smoke, and that's the best thing I've found to remove the smell. Get the heavy duty kind, and I wouldn't go cheap and get the generic, I just don't think it works exactly the same... But, it may just be in my head :)

Samantha June 2, 2009 at 1:50 PM  

A few years ago, I set a cinnamon raisin bagel on fire in the microwave. One of the raisins must have overheated or something, but I looked over and there were flames in the freaking microwave & smoke billowing out of it.

Did I mention that this was at 8 am and both of my roommates (one of which was my husband) were still sleeping? Fire alarm, etc. I was afraid to open the microwave or unplug it so I went running down the apartment hallway to wake up my husband to come "fix" it.

..He really liked that wake up call.

denise June 2, 2009 at 2:34 PM  

Warm up a white vinegar in a coffee cup for a few seconds and leave it out. It will absorb a lot of the smell, change it frequently. Also put baking soda in your carpets and vacuum it out after a few hours.

swedish fishie June 2, 2009 at 2:54 PM  

Great PSA! I hope this encourages people to go out and get fire extinguishers to keep in their kitchens. We have one, but only because it is required to obtain a certificate of occupancy in our town. If not for that, I'd have to say we'd be going out to buy one ASAP.

I'm glad you were all ok!

Anonymous,  June 2, 2009 at 4:00 PM  

Wow. I'm glad the only ones hurt were the tortillas! If you'd like another eco-friendly effective odour remover, try warming up lemons cut in half in the microwave (in 30 second intervals, so you don't start another fire). It did the trick for our kitchen a while ago. Good luck!

Laura June 2, 2009 at 5:51 PM  

this sounds like something that would happen to me...poor heather! i've heard that baking soda and vinegar are good remedies to the smell. do you have mostly carpet in your place? you might want to rent a rug doc to get some of the smell out. carpet fibers retain odors. good luck!

MandaK June 2, 2009 at 6:37 PM  

Is it an electric oven? Don't throw water in an electric oven! I had mine burst into flames one day and tossed water in - ruined the entire oven (had to replace it) baking soda works well I hear, although I hope to never need to use that piece of knowledge!

Mrs B. June 2, 2009 at 9:57 PM  

How insanely coincidental that I have made it now almost ten years living on my own without any kitchen fires, and I read your post today, come home, and The Hubs sets one of our burners on fire while boiling water!


Becky June 2, 2009 at 10:36 PM  

I swear this is going to happen to me sooner rather than later!!! Always keep baking soda in the house...and it should help with the smell too!

Glad everything is ok!!!

Marta-Jane June 3, 2009 at 2:32 AM  

Hi, I'm glad you are ok, except for the tortillas. As for the removing the smell, sometime ago we used coffee beans. You spill them for example somewhere in the kitchen, and they somehow absorb the smell. My parents tried that in the shop they rented and it really helped.


Alison June 3, 2009 at 10:36 PM  

Was it a low-carb tortilla? Because according to the Biggest Loser cookbook those apparently catch fire more easily!

Heather June 4, 2009 at 9:58 PM  

Is it wrong that I laughed out loud at a couple of you guys and your fire stories?

It's Thursday now (three days post-fire), and the smell is finally gone from our house. I can't smell it anymore, even when coming home after being gone awhile. Thankfully!

We ended up just leaving the windows open 24 hours a day, and lighting scented candles whenever we were home. It worked itself out eventually. We did sprinkle baking soda all over the carpet, let it sit while we were at work, and vacuumed it up when we got home. Used up the rest of my baking soda, though... boo! :)

And Alison--That is interesting about the low-carb tortillas being more likely to catch fire. This one was a whole wheat tortilla, though. Who knows! What I DO know is that I'll certainly be watching them under the broiler like a hawk from now on!

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