In 1997 I divorced my beloved toaster oven. It was a very traumatic event for me. I remember the day our romance ended. (Enter the dramatic cheesy music here).
How my toaster oven broke my heart
It was a hot, sticky day in South Florida and I decided to make my boys a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. Seeing how I didn’t have any margarine (I was cheap and butter was too expensive), I opted to throw four slices of white bread in the toaster oven, slap some fake Kraft singles on top and cook it in the toaster oven, because that’s the tool of all great cooks. Yeah – sarcasm!
While it was cooking, I went to the laundry room to move my clothes from the washing machine to the dryer. Now mind you, my stackable washer and dryer unit was only about 15 feet away from the toaster oven.
That’s when I heard the loud shrill coming from the smoke detector. When I turned to my right, I saw flames shooting out of the toaster oven.
My first thought was, “OMG, I’m stuck in that horrible film from the ’70s, “The Towering Inferno”.
I freaked out. When I said I freaked out, I seriously freaked out.
I wasn’t the good type of freak out, like if Brad Pitt came knocking at my door. You know, screaming frantically running around the house bouncing off the walls freak out. I’m not talking about the Brad Pitt of today, (he’s kinda a skeeze-ball), I’m talking “Legend of the Falls, Brad Pitt”. Tristian, be still my heart!
My freak out was so bad, I forgot the phone number to 9-1-1. I kid you not.
We didn’t own cell phones back then. Well, maybe the rich people did, but I wasn’t one of them. During my super-freak, I screamed at my boys to get out of the house. Yeah, a lot of good that did. When they saw the flames they didn’t even put down their Nintendo controllers. All they did was say, “cool”.
As freaked as I was I reached behind the toaster and unplugged it from the wall. I grabbed a bunch of flour and threw it on the toaster oven. I even opened the oven when I doused it with flour.
Looking back, I realize how incredibly stupid I was. My ignorance could have actually caused more damage or killed myself and my children. You see, dousing a fire with flour can cause an explosion if the flour heated too quickly.
Maybe mine didn’t explode because it was about 3 years past the expiration date. I’m telling you, the word “food safety” wasn’t in my vocabulary back then.
Once the melted cheese (which caused the fire by dripping onto the heating elements) was completely charred, the fire ceased. My flour didn’t do jack-squat.
I was so afraid to touch it. I thought I would burn myself, or the thing would spark up again and burn the flesh off my skin. Yep, I was still freaked out. Finally, I put my big girl pants and took the toaster oven out of my house and dropped it at the very end of the driveway, next to the street.
I vowed at that point to never bring another toaster oven into my house and to go out and buy a fire extinguisher.
Being the horrible cook I was back then, I used my toaster oven more than my actual oven.
Classes of fire extinguishers
All fire extinguishers are not created equally. There are different ones for each type of fire. Before I learned anything about fire safety, I thought the whole class was just a racket to sell more extinguishers.
- Class A: ordinary combustibles like cloth, wood, and paper.
- Class B: flammable liquids like grease, gasoline, and oil
- Class C: electrical appliances and tools
- Class D: flammable metals (mostly in factories)
- Class K: vegetable oils, animal oils, or fats in cooking appliances
There is no need to have every type of fire extinguisher out there. Sure, if your a tad anal, yes, I said it, then, by all means, go out and buy each type, but since we’re just talking about the kitchen, you’re going to need to get yourself one that is specific for households, such as a combination A-B-C extinguisher.
The National Fire Protection Association does recommend every home have a fire extinguisher on every floor in their home. But that’s your call if you want to do that. Me; I’d be too afraid my kids would start fighting, find the fire extinguishers and use it on each other. If you have boys, I’m sure this may have crossed your mind.
Just make sure you get at least one for the kitchen. Okay?
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You can find kitchen fire extinguishers just about at any big box store, but the Home Depot has a really cool extinguisher called the Fireman – 1 Shot Fire Extinguishing Spray. This looks more like some canned air than a fire extinguisher. You can score yourself one for $31.99.
What I like about the Fireman – 1 Shot Fire Extinguishing Spray is, it has a combination of the classes A-B-C-K. Most I found on the market were just classified as A-B-C. I purchased this one and I’m just happy I can’t give you a review of it because we hadn’t needed to use it.
I’m not saying you need to go out and get that instead of a real fire extinguisher like you would find out in the public, but with our lack of upper body strength, sometimes we ladies have a difficult time holding heavy objects. Plus, do they even sell the big ones to regular people?
Regardless, if you feel you can extinguish the fire yourself, please always call 9-1-1 and report the fire.
You never know, but one little spark can burn the house down. I don’t mean to scare you, but fire is some scary shit!
The most important fire extinguisher tip you can use
When faced with a fire, you’re gonna freak out. There’s nothing I can say or do to keep you from freaking out, so let’s both get this straight. When you’re done having your 20 seconds but feels like forever freak attack, grab that fire extinguisher and do exactly what I say.
Aim the nozzle at the BASE of the flame. Not the middle of the flame. Not the top of the flame, but the BASE. You must also sweep it back and forth. Go left to right if needed but you must only spray the BASE.
If you’re not sure where the base is, it’s the bottom part where the flames meet the floor, stove-top, pan, etc.
We had the Fire Department come into work and we all had to put out a fake electronic fire. Most of us aimed for the middle, but when we had to do it again and we swept from the base, the fire was extinguished at a much rapid speed.
So, always AIM FOR THE BASE!
Cooking safety tips to prevent kitchen fires
Stop multi-tasking when you’re cooking. I know sometimes while you’re trying to cook you end up being the referee for your kid’s fighting, letting the dog out, etc… there’s a really good chance you’re gonna get distracted and may not be by not paying attention to what’s going on at the stove.
With that said, here are some tips you need to pay attention to while cooking.
1. Never leave cooking unattended. Stay in the kitchen while cooking and turn off the stove before you leave. (Side note: I once left eggs boiling in water for 1-1/2 hours. Thankfully, no fire ensued, but it did burn the crap out of my eggs and my Calphalon pot. Oh yeah, one of the hard-boiled eggs exploded all over my kitchen). Yeah, good times. That’s me being sarcastic again.
2. Don’t put anything metallic in the microwave. (Make sure you pull off the inside lids to the Campbells sipping soups before putting them in the microwave. A girl from work didn’t realize the inner seal with metal. Well, that’s what she said anyway).
3. Double-check the timer on your microwave or kitchen timer. You may have thought you punched 1-minute, but accidentally punched 10-minutes. (Yes, once again speaking from experience).
4. If you have a gas-top stove, keep matches and lighters out of reach of children. (Do they even sell matches anymore)?
5. There are many dangerous chemicals in the kitchen. Even if you use something that’ s non-toxic, there is a good chance it may go KA-BOOM if it’s close to a heat source such as a fire. Flammable materials such as aerosols, cleaning agents and cooking oils should be stored away from heat. (If your dishwasher is next to your sink and you keep your flammable and cleaning products under the sink, don’t worry. Although the dishwasher does get hot, the heat won’t get hot enough to send your kitchen sink into oblivion).
6. Avoid cooking under the influence of alcohol or drugs. (Seriously, this is a no-brainer, but I had to mention it. P.S. For the purpose of this bullet point, Advil is not considered a drug).
7. Keep loose clothing, fabrics, dish towels, curtains, and flammable items away from the stove. (How many people actually have curtains over their stove? If you do, please send me a picture because I can’t get a visual).
8. Turn pot handles inwards. Pot handles hanging over the edge of the stove can be easily knocked or grabbed by children. (Or by you if you didn’t pay attention to bullet point #6)
9. Keep your oven, range, and grill clean and in good working order. A build-up of grease, fat, and melted cheese from the pizza you put straight in the oven, can ignite in a fire. (I know you like your Digorno crust crispy. I do too, but please put it on a pizza pan before sliding it in your oven. If you don’t do that, it’s just going to be the toaster oven story all over again, minus lugging it out to the curb).
How to extinguish a grease fire
Turn the heat off. Don’t try to move the pot. You might accidentally splash yourself, your kid, your spouse, your dog.
Cover the pot with a metal lid. Fire can’t survive without oxygen. With the lid on (and the heat off), the fire will die. If your pots don’t have a metal lid and yours is a glass lid, there’s a really good chance the glass will shatter.
Toss on a bunch of baking soda. Baking soda will extinguish only small grease fires. You will have to use a lot of baking soda.
Spray the pot with your fire extinguisher. Make this one your last resort, as fire extinguishers will contaminate your kitchen by releasing all of the chemicals. But really, at that point, it’s not gonna matter, just do it!
Get out and call 9-1-1. f the fire starts to spread, get out of the house and call 9-1-1.
Whatever you do, DO NOT do the following:
Do Not use water. Your first instinct is to douse the pan with water, but pouring water can cause the oil to splash and spread the fire. Remember, this isn’t a house fire, it’s a grease fire.
Do Not move the pan or carry it outside. Throwing the pan outside might seem like the most logical thing to do during your freak-out session, but moving the pan might splash burning oil on you, your husband, your kids, your dog, your pet turtle, Sully.
Do Not throw flour on the fire. Just don’t do it, it could explode.
How to extinguish a microwave fire
Turn the power off, and unplug it if it’s kept on the counter. If it’s attached to your stove, shut off the circuit breaker.
Keep the microwave oven door shut. DO NOT OPEN IT. By opening the door you will introduce oxygen into the unit. Flames need oxygen to survive. By keeping the door shut the flames will die due to lack of oxygen. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR UNLESS YOU’RE 100% SURE THE FIRE IS OUT.
Safety tips for cooking in the microwave:
- Use microwave-safe cooking utensils, plates or bowls.
- Never use metal, metal-edged bowls, metal foil or even twist ties in microwave ovens. The metal can cause arcing which can lead to a fire.
- Never use recycled paper in microwave ovens unless they are specifically approved for microwave use. Recycled products including paper towels have minute metal flecks; these can cause sparks and even flames.
- When cooking popcorn heat according to the instructions. Never cook longer than 2 minutes as most microwaves will burn popcorn at 2 minutes.
- Never attempt to dry clothes or blankets in microwave ovens as they may catch on fire. (I did this back in 1999. I microwaved my son’s boxer shorts because he wore them in the ocean under his swimming trunks. He’s now 30 and won’t let me live down the fact I burnt his favorite pair of boxers).
How to extinguish a toaster fire
Cover the toaster with a wet dishtowel, bath towel, or if you have a fire blanket, cover it with that.
Use a fire extinguisher. Make sure you aim that nozzle at the base of the fire. Do not aim the nozzle into the toast slots.
Throw a lot of baking soda on it. If you need to use the entire box, then use the entire box. DO NOT use flour. It can explode, and then you’re gonna have another huge mess to deal with. (Mainly picking your limbs out of the neighbor’s tree. I know that didn’t make sense, because how can you pick your limbs out if you don’t have any. Yes, I know it’s pretty graphic, but I’m trying to make a point. Just don’t do it, okay)?
How to extinguish a toaster/convection oven fire
Unplug it from the wall. If you can reach the plug without burning yourself, pull the cord out of the wall.
Throw a lot of baking soda on it.
Use a fire extinguisher.
Don’t do this:
I had read (from a nationally syndicated news publication) that while your toaster oven is on fire, you should pick it up, put it in your oven and close the door. Sure, the lack of oxygen will kill the flames, but no one in their right mind should pick up something that has flames on it!
Sometimes, I think people just pull information out of their butts and spew it all over the internet.
How to extinguish an electrical fire
Odds are you’re not going to know where the fire is stemming from, so turn off the main circuit breaker to the house.
If a small appliance cord is on fire, if possible, pull it out of the outlet, then douse it with baking soda.
Use the fire extinguisher. Remember, sweep the flames at the BASE.
If the fire is small you can use baking soda.
On an ending note, if you can’t contain the fire
Call 9-1-1. If you don’t know their number it’s 9-1-1. After you call them, grab your kids, grab your spouse, grab your pet(s), grab yourself and get the heck out of the house.
If you’ve ever experienced a kitchen fire or know someone who has, please share your experience down below in the comment section, as I feel it will benefit all who read it.
Stay safe my friend.
Until we meet again,
P.S. I’m not trying in any way to make light of this important subject.
I know I sort of throw some humor in when I’m writing about something super serious, but that’s just me. Truly serious discussions make me, I wouldn’t say nervous or uncomfortable. Heck, I don’t know what it makes me, but I’ve always used some sort of humor as a way to make both parties feel more at ease or to lighten the subject up. Most people, myself included comprehending important information better when it’s not delivered in a dry, monotone, Ben Stein delivery.
Oops, I did it again.
P.P.S Before you go, don’t forget to get your Fire Extinguisher Guide. “An ounce of prevention is a worth a pound of cure” – Benjamin Franklin