There was a fire in my kitchen yesterday and the fire department was called but let me start off by telling you that we’re all fine and the house is not badly damaged.
But yes, there was a fire in my kitchen and I was the one who caused it. I know accidents happen; many people have comforted me with those words and in exchange for my story I’ve heard related anecdotes from friends who’ve “been there.” But I’m still shaken up about it as I vividly remember the sight of flames rising higher than my oven hood and running out of the house yelling “FIRE! Someone call 911!”
I had been rushing around just minutes before to get ready for our babysitter to arrive for me to leave for youth group. Mike was already at the church and Mini just woke up from her nap. I decided last-minute to boil some water for frozen ravioli so the babysitter could have something pre-made for dinner.
I cleaned off Mini’s highchair tray, which is always a big invader of the limited counter space in the kitchen, filled a pot with water, and turned on the stove burner. When the doorbell rang, obliviously I set the plastic tray down on the other burner to answer the door. Except it wasn’t on the burner that was turned off…I had turned on the wrong one.
Meanwhile, our wonderful babysitter at the door asked if we’d like to come outside and meet her new puppy. It was a classic Anna-moment of being distracted. We all walked down the sidewalk to see the puppy and it was very exciting. Absent-mindedly, I forgot about what I was doing five minutes prior.
Then I heard a smoke alarm go off. My neighbor, who was taking out his trash to the common area in front of our townhouses, asked me if I heard that beeping, too. It wasn’t very loud. We both started walking toward my house at the same time and I walked in and immediately saw my living room filled with a dark haze. I ran in the kitchen and saw the enormous flame and screamed. I fled the house as fast as I could and yelled for help, fearing that we were about to lose everything we owned. It was a horrible, powerless feeling.
I saw my neighbor call on his cell phone as he ran back into his house and our babysitter started dialing 911, too. Max, who stayed outside but saw the reflection of the fire, had a terrorized look on his face and started crying about his Legos and I knelt beside him and gained my composure but I was crying, too. I told him everything was going to be all right and the firemen were on their way.
On the phone with the dispatcher, I explained that there was a fire in my kitchen and that everyone was out of the house. But just as I said that I saw my neighbor run into the house with his fire extinguisher. I told the operator that he ran inside and in a stern voice, he commanded me to tell him to get out of the house. I was overcome with fear over the danger of him being in there and my knees and voice were shaking as I yelled out his name.
My neighbor extinguished the fire and opened up the windows to ventilate the smoke. In a calm manner, he walked outside and told me the fire was out and that everything is okay. He said that it was the tray that caught on fire. He also noticed that I had cooking wine and sherry (expired in 2006) stored in the cabinet above the oven hood and pointed out the danger in keeping flammable liquids close to a heat source. He was coughing and I was so worried about that, but I was also so thankful that he bravely ran inside. By instinct, it seemed.
At that time I heard the sirens from a distance and the fire chief called back on my babysitter’s cell phone to talk to me and to get my neighbor’s report. A few minutes later an ambulance arrived as well as the fire chief’s Suburban. I guess they knew a big engine wasn’t necessary. Three firefighters went into the house and a paramedic walked over to talk to me and make sure no one was hurt.
The next thing I knew, one of the firemen brought this out to the front yard.
And when the house was cleared as safe, safety reminders were given as well as a recommendation for a new place for our fire extinguisher (ours is under the sink but with the child safety latch it’s not a good place to keep it). Hands were shaken, necks were hugged, caring neighbors were thanked, and everyone sighed in relief. My hero neighbor went over to another person’s house to get a fan for me and set it up in the front doorway. Then I walked back in and saw this.
Not that much damage when you think about what could have been. I don’t know how fast a fire can spread but I don’t even want to think what the few minutes of waiting for the firefighters to arrive would have caused. When would the cabinets catch fire? When would the sprinkler system go off?
A close call. Just a mess to clean up and thankful prayers to be lifted up for my hero neighbor who stepped up and helped in an emergency. And for God’s provision of my babysitter and her mom who were such a comfort to me and Max (Mini, thank goodness, was not phased at all. When she saw the kitchen she said “ohh my” and asked for juice.) Max did not want to go into the kitchen and see the damage. I was sick at the thought that I caused this trauma for him and became consumed with cleaning up and returning things to normal. My babysitter’s mom took the puppy home then came back to help me clean and I was really blessed by that.
Also, thanks to my mom who came over afterwards and spent time with Max then stayed until midnight talking and washing all my dishes, which were covered in soot and fire extinguisher dust. It seemed like a never-ending mess. We didn’t even get to the insides of the cabinets. A hint of smoke and a layer of dust everywhere.
At bedtime, Max and I talked and thanked God for His protection. We turned to the next page in his devotional and, as only God does in His timing, was titled something like The Lord protects us and comforts us (Psalm 23). God is amazing!
Along with being thankful to the point of tears, I do have plenty of post-trauma feelings to process, though. Some thoughts I haven’t been able to easily shake. Please pray.