I was so tired that night in 1999. Instead of cleaning up the kitchen before bed, I promised myself that I would take care of the dishes and pot from our chicken dinner first thing in the morning.
Later, I woke up slightly and smelled bacon cooking. I thought, “Huh, Craig must be home.”
Still later, I woke up a little more and smelled burned bacon. I got up and walked along the hall and down the stairs. As I neared the bottom of the staircase, a thick cloud of smoke erased the landing.Walking into the darkness, everything was quiet. I went into the kitchen and could see orange glowing embers on the wooden hood in the center of the kitchen that vented the stove. I calmly walked across the room and flipped the light switch. Nothing happened. That’s when my heart began to beat quickly, I thought “fire is in the ceiling”.
This was when cell phones were just beginning to be popular, and I didn’t have one yet. I went to the living room and used the landline. But who was I going to call?
My mom answered the call groggily, “Hello?”
“Mom, tell dad to bring the fire extinguisher!” I said.
” Mom, just tell dad to bring the fire extinguisher!” I repeated.
“Ok,” she said as I hung up the phone.
I called 911 next. Once I stated my emergency, the dispatcher seemed shocked that I was calling from inside the house. She told me to immediately evacuate.
I walked outside barefoot in the crisp October night. I wore a t-shirt and sweatpants. In the distance, I could hear the low hum of a fire engine as it changed gears.
Seconds later, the fire truck–no siren, lights blazing pulled on the lawn. My dad followed moments later.
Firemen and women descended on my house from the truck and from various cars that kept on arriving. They used a heat sensor to determine if there was fire anywhere in the house. There wasn’t. Giant fans were set up to blow smoke out of the main floor. It was determined that the batteries in the smoke alarm were dead.
The breaker fuse was blown when the fire reached a wire.
“But,” you might ask… “What started the fire? And what does this whole story have to do with cleaning?”
You see, one of the items that I had neglected to clean up that night was a stockpot with some chicken broth at the bottom. As my cat leaned in to lick the broth at the bottom, his foot turned on the burner. Once the broth had boiled away, the remaining fat ignited and the flames were high and hot enough to incinerate the edge of the wooden stove hood.
The moral of the story:
Firemen are our friends.
Cats are evil.
Always clean up your kitchen at the end of the day.