I woke up this morning like I do most Saturdays, with a bed full of girls. We talked and laughed and before getting up for the day, I said something like, “I don’t want this to be just another Saturday filled with routines, ok?”
Twenty minutes later I was enjoying a coffee and watching a video of Paulo Coelho talking about ‘seeking adventure’ as a writer, when my wife yelled OH MY GOD from the kitchen.
I can see the kitchen from my desk and when I looked over, I caught flames leaping out of the oven toward the ceiling, and my wife reaching in for a pizza box that had ignited. I jumped from my seat to the kitchen. EVERYBODY OUT, I shouted. My wife didn’t run out. The kids rushed in from the living room and started screaming. I straddled the front of the oven, GET OUT, I commanded again as I grabbed the flaming pizza box and flung it toward the middle of the kitchen directly into the heart of the route out of the house – right at our kids. More screams. I rushed to the box. My wife had opened the kitchen door and was standing at the porch door fumbling with the lock. I kicked the flames toward her. UNLOCK IT, I said. I CAN’T, she said. YOU MUST, I said.
The flaming box was now roasting the rug on our back porch – a foot away from where my wife struggled with the deadbolt. I’LL CALL 911, I heard one of the girls yell from behind me. I jumped to to the flaming box and stomped it with my socked foot. My wife managed to unlock the door and I kicked the box onto the concrete patio. I looked down, surprised to find that my pants were not on fire. I looked back, there were still flames in the house. Spreading. I CAN’T RUN PAST IT DADDY.
We moved into our house in 2000. It was my first house. I was pretty proud. Because I was in the military, I’m a fairly safe guy. Protocols, contingencies and all that. So one of the first things I bought from Home Depot when we moved in was a fire extinguisher. And for twelve years that fire extinguisher has sat in the same spot on a shelf on the back porch, unused.
Inside the house, smoke reached the hallway and set off the fire alarm. More screaming. I grabbed the fire extinguisher, familiarized myself with the concept of how it works, pulled the red plug, detached the rubber hose, and pulled the trigger. There was dust. I pointed the hose at the flame on the porch. The dust worked. I ran inside. It worked on the kitchen floor. I went over to the oven. Poof – flames gone.
The whole event lasted less than two minutes.
Safely together on the driveway, we watched as smoke and dust billowed out of the back door and kitchen window. It looked like our house was on fire.
Suddenly, all of the plans we’d talked about earlier, changed. I never felt like we were ever in danger of dying, but I’ll tell you what – loose flames in your house will sober your ass up real quick.
Check your fire extinguishers. Be grateful for moments. And be careful what you wish for.
5 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Jan 15, 2012
So scary. Very happy that this was minor (as far as structure and no injuries; but taking that away it is not minor and was a very big deal in the moment). Your candidness in telling this is amazing as the yelling from the fear, the not caring when you were stomping as knowing your family means more is what it is all about. I champion and always look over at you for who I am as a parent.
PS I had a massive house fire, no one was hurt as we had literally just left by 2 min before the alarms went off. For the record, the fire extinguishers all survived as when most of house is gone, it was “fun” to see if they would have worked which was a bit of trial and error. Have no idea in the moment how you were able to do what you did to make it work. Oh wait, you lived in Jersey and married a Jersey girl … that explains it all. =-)
Jan 15, 2012
Today I do not own a fire extinguisher. Tomorrow I will.
Karin L Burke
Jan 15, 2012
Glad that you are all okay.
Strange – I think you nailed one of the ways in which writing works. By telling your story, you triggered things in me that I have neither thought about or considered important in years. Yes, a fire, but more importantly what happens to us or inside of us or between us after the fire is out.
I’d forgotten that. But you wrote it. Good.
Jan 15, 2012
No fire extinguisher in this house today, either. I, too, will order one. And I’ll also check batteries in our smoke detectors. Thanks for sharing, Jim. But in the future, please be more careful, okay? I would hate to lose my first Twitter follower.
Jan 16, 2012
Holy crap, but that’s a rather extreme way to get yourself out of your routine!
I have three fire extinguishers, but I need to get them checked/refilled/tuned up … whatever it is one does along the lines of fire extinguisher maintenance. It’ll get done this week.
So glad everyone’s okay!
My novel – Minor King
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