I Was A Firefighter! I Was Also The Arsonist Making It Less Glorious.

But before we get into yesterday’s story, let’s talk about a couple of years ago when I lit myself on fire.

No, it was not in some massive demonstration for freedom and peace. It was merely a demonstration of sleep-deprivation.

I am making tea in my terry cloth yellow bathrobe that matches Scott’s terry cloth yellow bathrobe. The tea is probably to celebrate showering during E’s nap since he was only ten months old and still waking up 3-4 times a night.

I look down at my arm. I’m on fire. The little fibers hanging off the robe caught our gas stove light. And the fire is on a mad dash up my arm. The crystal clear thought I have? HOLY CRAP! I’M ON FIRE.

I throw off my bathrobe and begin nude-stomping. The fire goes out. My arm is okay. The baby is still asleep. The robe is ruined. I begin crying. And hyperventilating. Mostly because I was on fire. But maybe a little because I still miss that robe.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. I start dinner during N’s nap and while E is at camp. I throw the oil in the stainless pan and begin responding to an email. Or two. Or three. And I turn around to see a THREE FOOT FLAME shooting out of my pot.

I think OMG OMG OMG. Which isn’t helpful. I can’t remember where the fire extinguisher is. Then I realize that I don’t know how to USE a fire extinguisher. By the time I Google it my house will burn down.

My kitchen is filling with smoke. I think to turn on the exhaust fan until I realize that it will suck the flames into my stove’s venting system. And possibly explode.

Now I’m in full-on panic. I know there’s one thing you are not supposed to do. Except I can’t remember what it is for an oil fire. So I decide to throw water on it. Which turns out to be THE ONE THING you are not supposed to do. Instead, I create a fire ball that flies up into the air and mushrooms.

I realize that this is when I call 9-1-1 and collect my daughter. Who is clearly not asleep and instead is yelling UH-OH from her crib. Uh-oh is right, baby.

But just as suddenly, the fireball uses the last of the oil and POOF the fire is gone. I inch closer. Turn off the stove. And begin coughing.

I realize that although the fire is out, the kitchen has filled with thick smoke. I throw open a door. But I realize that this isn’t burnt-the-dinner smoke. This is smoke-inhalation-danger smoke. (firefighter jargon. not really.). As I make my ex-smoker-coughing way upstairs, I see smoke filling the guest room.

I run to my daughter’s nursery. She’s all HI MAMA and SLEEP IS FOR SUCKERS. I grab her and she’s like HEY! WHERE’S THE FIRE. Um, downstairs? I call for my dog. And we run into the 102 degree backyard because I am too embarrassed to go into the front yard after spying my neighbor yacking away to another neighbor.

Then my doorbell rings. And I’m pretty sure it’s the fire department coming with CPS to remove my children and my computer. So I yell just a minute. But I’m scared to go back inside because my lungs are burning and now my dog is in the house because SOMEONESATTHEDOORSOMEONESATTHEDOOR. And my calling RATCHET RATCHET is of little consequence when SOMEONESATTHEDOOR is racing through his head.

But I don’t want my dog to die of smoke inhalation so I go and get him and bring him into the backyard again. Then I go out the gate and around the house to the front yard so I can beg the firefighters to let me climb the ladder and jump onto the safety mat JUST ONCE.

But instead I meet a non-firefighter stranger who wanted to take our porch swing that we are keeping on the side of the street in the hopes that the trash collectors will take it away even though they haven’t for the last two weeks.

And he’s saying: Can I have your broken bench?
Me: Um, okay.
Him: Thanks.

I guess the billowing smoke plumes are not as noticeable when you have a broken porch swing on the mind.

Now it’s still 102 degrees and after ten minutes, that seems worse than sucking smoke.

So my daughter, my dog and I go back inside and sit in the one room with a ceiling fan while I opened up all the doors and windows. (Except the front door. Let’s not forget my pride. And my neighbors.)

Oh yeah, and I cried.

And I’m stilling breathing like a chain smoker.

And my house smells like fire.

And when I pick up my son from camp, he says: Mama, I missed you.
And I give him a hug and say: I missed you, too. But I also lit the house on fire so it was probably good that you were at camp.

And when I came home last night, Scott had left a candle burning in the kitchen. He never takes me seriously anymore.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

37 thoughts to “I Was A Firefighter! I Was Also The Arsonist Making It Less Glorious.”

  1. Good Grief! I’m actually a little pissed off at how exciting your day was. I never have any good stories to tell my kids when I pick them up at camp.

    Seriously though, glad you are okay. And your post made me realize that I have no idea where our fire extinguisher is stored at the moment. Remedying that today.

  2. Baking soda…that’s what you do with grease fire…or put a lid on it to get rid of the air!…sorry that happened. it’s incredibly scary. there is this blog I read where the family’s house burned down …her blog description of that day …how she noticed / smelled smoke and fire under their furnace (I think) but that she was too distracted to believe that the house was on fire and what she did in those minutes and afterward was mesmerizing. glad everyone is okay. — your next “I ask” can be how to remove smoke smell from furniture/the house…

  3. Oh, my! What a day! I feel a little bit guilty laughing at your predicament, but I’m still laughing! Thanks for sharing!
    By the way, Wal Mart sells a new fire extinguisher that is an aerosol can. Just point and shoot like hairspray. I used it for a popcorn fire and it worked like a charm and because the spray was small-almost no mess!

    1. OOH! That’s so good to know. And don’t apologize. I was half-laughing at myself too. The other half was FREAKING OUT. But we’re whole again. And now this comment is getting weird so I’ll stop.

  4. I’m sorry! Fire is terrifying.
    I will never forget the time I had dinner all nice and in the oven, only to smell smoke. Holy … the oven was on fire (my fault I hadn’t cleaned it). I removed dinner, grabbed the fire extinguisher (which I had just moved that day) and sprayed it on my oven. But the powder went everywhere. I was quaking, the kitchen needed serious cleaning, the baby woke up and I needed to feed my kid. No fun.
    I’m getting one of those aerosol extinguishers.

  5. Here in the UK, pretty much every home has a fire blanket. Really easy to use – no Google instructions required – and doesn’t go old the way a fire extinguisher does. And you don’t have to fuss over possibly using the wrong thing, you’re just depriving a flame of oxygen so you don’t have to worry about making anything explode.

    I had never seen one in Canada. We all had those twenty-year-old kitchen extinguishers that were guaranteed not to work if you needed it anyway.

    Very glad it turned out okay. Although your carpet is going to smell weird for years.

  6. So I come back after a two-week hiatus, and you’re even funnier! Good to know.
    Sorry, though, about the fire. We used up our fire extinguisher recently, because my mother left a vat of sugar water on the stove that burned (and burned, and burned). Her cabinets are blackened and two burners on the stove now have to share one knob. And somehow, I am managing not to be paranoid.

    1. Well, that just made my day. I’m FUNNIER! (Seriously, I’ve MISSED you.)

      I’m so happy to hear that I’m not the only one trying to get out of cooking by burning the kitchen down.

  7. I’d say this is a good excuse to stop cooking – completely. You obviously have some sort of curse. Keep your entire family safe and someone else can make you tea and cook your family dinners.

    Oh, wait, sorry, I’m back in reality. What happened? What did I say?

  8. Great storytelling – funny, well-paced and dramatic! Fire probably was traumatic but at least it’s fodder for your blog. (And glad everyone’s OK).

  9. Is this the porch swing that your wonderful hubby made for you? Funny how that’s the most disturbing part of the story for me… oh no, giving away the porch swing?!?!?!? (wait, did someone say something about a house-engulfing fire?)

  10. I think you are supposed to throw a towel over it to smother it, which would scar the hell out of me. In college, my not-so-domestic roommate lit pasta on fire on the stove (don’t ask me how THAT is done), and threw about four pounds of rice on it to put it out.

    1. Rice? Rice doesn’t catch fire too? I would think it’d make these dangerous little poppers.

      After the robe incident, I don’t think that I would have the guts to throw anything cloth onto the fire…. but then again, I created a fireball with my choice.

  11. Oh, dear God. I was thinking, please don’t throw water on it…And, then you did. Yikes!

    First you can’t make coffee…now fires in your kitchen?

    Gotta say, I can’t blame your husband for not taking you seriously!

    1. HEY!!

      And the coffee has been QUITE delicious these days thanks to y’all. But I do wonder if I have some sort of personal vendetta with the kitchen. Or maybe it has a vendetta against ME.

  12. “Then I realize that I don’t know how to USE a fire extinguisher. By the time I Google it my house will burn down.”

    Hahaha! I identified with this so much.

    I thought you were supposed to use flour or something to smother a gas fire? Thank goodness we just have electric, one less thing to worry about.

    1. Dude, the second fire WAS on an electric stove (we’ve moved since lighting myself on fire). I KNOW. I was shocked too. Turns out that a pot can get the oil THAT HOT. Now you don’t have to Google it. You’re welcome.

  13. I would have said you did this intentionally to divert your son’s attention from TV, but he wasn’t home so I guess this was legit. I might have to have a fire trick for week 2 of the challenge though. That would totally take my son’s mind off Wii for maybe 10 whole minutes.

    Glad you all are ok. That must have been scary!

  14. OMG – I am so glad you were all alright. I’d be freaked out too, and not know what to do. It’s even harder to think when you’re panicking!

    I once left the stove on and left for grandparents’ day at my son’s school…the only reason we came back was b/c we were told it was only for grandparents…and that’s when we smelled the burning odor even before we went inside. I always think “what if”…I don’t remember how we got rid of the burnt smell – I imagine alot of windows, fans, sprays and just patience.

  15. I’m so glad everything turned out okay. It reminded me to take our fire extinguisher out of the box. Fat lot of good it does there.

    When I was pregnant with my oldest, I worked at City Hall. In a moment of sheer preggo brain, I put a small bag of popcorn in the microwave, turned the timer to popcorn and went to use the bathroom located a few feet away. When I came out, the popcorn was burnt and filling the office with smoke, which caused the girls next door to alert the fire department which meant that I spent the rest of my pregnancy listening to fire safety tips and being asked if I needed help heating up my soup.

    We won’t even talk about the time I got my arm caught in the mail box and my boss had to call the FD.

  16. Scary! I’m so glad that you all are safe and that there was no damage done to the house. My mom grounded me from matches once because she thought I had “a problem”. Um, I was almost a sophomore in college. She kept a small box of matches on the end table by the chair in the living room (where there as a candle) and when bored I would strike a match and watch it burn. When I blew one out the little burnt head of the match fell off and made a mark on the chair. Weeks later when my mom finally noticed it and asked about it I told her the truth and was promptly “grounded from matches.” Um, hello? I am almost 20 yrs old and it was an accident and how often does one really need to use a match in the summer time?! But nope. I was NOT allowed to light candles for the remainder of my time at home. SERIOUSLY.

  17. Wandered over here from The Bloggess’s comment section to say holy hell woman. Well, actually I was going to give props on your post title being all artsy & cool & kind of mysterious. But then I read the post & well…I still give props, but I also sort of want to give you a hug instead because you almost burned your house down & that’s my biggest fear. I’m glad everything turned out okay.

    1. Thanks for visiting! And I was pretty psyched about my title, too. Especially the use of GLORIOUS. I really enjoy that word.

      Although I agree that it’s less admirable because it is the MOST ACCURATE TITLE I COULD’VE CHOSEN. {sigh}

      I’m sorry to have been your biggest fear come true. (I’ve never said that to someone before.)

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