My 4-year old had been talking to me all day. Every time I sat down she “needed” something. So when she called for me the 18th time in less than five minutes after I’d sat down, my hormonal induced crankiness led to me shouting out “WHAT NOOOOOOW?”
She was standing in the dining room, pointing through the doorway to the kitchen, at the ceiling, her eyes big.
“Is all that smoke supposed to be there?” she asked in her cute little voice.
“What NOOOOOWWW?” I asked, now annoyed at life in general, instead of her.
I stomped toward the kitchen and saw it – the smoke billowing out at me like an old pick-up truck with a bad muffler.
I wasn’t daunted in my crankiness. I stomped some more – right across the kitchen floor – seething as I struggled to open the kitchen window, which is too high for this midget woman to reach, and realized it was locked. (I’m not officially a midget. I’m just super short.) I climbed up on the sink and flicked the locks and the window open with all the ferocity of a woman with raging hormones.
I waved my way through the smoke and smashed the cancel button on the stove, coughing and shouting at my daughter to “get into the other room and away from the smoke.”
I waited for the smoke to stop billowing out of the stove as I flung the back porch door open to try to convince the smoke to travel out of the kitchen.
The smoke didn’t stop and now my son was coughing.
“Ummm…ummmm..go get the fire extinguisher,” I told my son.
We have had that fire extinguisher for more than 16 years, most likely, and have never used it. I have no idea what I thought I was going to do with it since I wasn’t even seeing flames, only smoke. I also contemplated it might explode when I pulled the pin from it, if I could even figure out where the pin was.
I struggled to pull the pin and sprayed it wildly into the smoke. Now there was smoke and fire extinguisher dust billowing out into my house so I knew I had to do something besides standing there with my mouth hanging open – like call 911. But I didn’t want to call 911. There weren’t any flames and the smoke would probably stop eventually and then I’d feel stupid with a bunch of firefighters standing in my front yard and kitchen, looking at me like I was a crazy woman who had cried wolf.
The local emergency responders don’t do anything simple in my area, which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing if you have a real emergency and a curse if you merely have a possible emergency. They’d probably call out the ladder truck and it would come screaming up my street and then 10 pick-up trucks with flashing lights would rip onto the curb and in my yard and the men would run in with hoses and axes and all the gawkers would walk by the corner to see what was happening because this town is so small there is literally little else to do other than see where the firetrucks are going. My mind raced to all the fires I’d had to cover for the newspaper and how half the time I had to try to shoot photos of the emergency around rubberneckers who did little else other than get in the way and speculate how the fire started.
(Please know the previous sentences are just a little teasing because our local firefighters are awesome and in desperate need of volunteers. I knew they’d be great and I just didn’t want to waste their time on a little smoke.)
I told my kids to go outside on the porch and called my husband first to gauge if I really needed to call the fire department. Yes. I called my husband. Be quiet.
“Honey, we have an emergency but I don’t know if I should -”
“What’s the emergency?”
“There is smoke billowing out of the stove and -”
“Why are you calling me?! Call the fire company!”
“But it will probably stop and – ”
“Honey, it’s time to call the fire company. Call them now.”
I told the kids (who had apparently gone deaf due to the smoke since I’d already told them to go outside but they were back inside) to pick up the couch cushions my daughter had been using to “build a tower” because there would be firefighters walking through the house and I didn’t want them to trip on them.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
“Well there is smoke filling my house from the stove but the stove isn’t on fire – it’s just the smoke keeps billowing out and the house isn’t on fire but – OH MY GOSH! GET THE DOG! GET THE CAT AND WE WILL PUT HER IN THE VAN! WHY IS THE DOOR STUCK AGAIN! THE DOOR IS STUCK?! CLIMB IN THE FRONT WINDOW THEN!”
I looked down and realized I had committed the cardinal sin of 911 calling. My sister-in-law, a 911 dispatcher in another county, had told me never to hang up on the dispatcher because the dispatcher can help walk you through how to handle an emergency until fire fighters arrive on the scene. I had hung up on the dispatcher without realizing it and was mortified when it hit me what I had done. Oops.
Since I had explained to the dispatcher that the house wasn’t on fire, before I hung up on her anyhow, the local firefighters (did I mention they are all volunteer and really great guys?) calmly pulled up to the house. The first volunteer couldn’t get through our front door because it is broke and had jammed into the metal frame when we let it slam while we were running out (we are redneck like that). He climbed through the front window and yes, I was mortified but I was sitting on the ground, holding on to the collar of the dog because we hadn’t been able to find her leash before we dragged her out of the smoke so I just let the embarrassment roll over me like it usually does. Being embarrassed is a normal state for me, I should add.
We left the cat inside and hoped she would fend for herself.
A woman was parked across the street and shouted over to me: “Are you okay? Do you need anything?”
I let her know it was just some smoke from the oven, I was sure it was fine, but thanked her.
“If you need anything let me know!” she called from her truck and drove away and that’s when I wanted to shout back: “Thank you! But I have no idea who you are!”
An acquaintance drove by and stopped in the middle of the street in her very large SUV and shouted out “Lisa! What happened!? Are you okay?”
“Yep! Just smoke from the oven!” I shouted back, wondering if a firefighter was going to tell her to get out of the way at some point, but grateful for her concern.
I was bewildered. Why was everyone freaking out? It was just some smoke in the kitchen. It wasn’t until later my son and I figured out that first, I was sitting on the ground in our front yard, slightly hunched over while I held the dog and probably looked like I had been overcome with smoke, and second, there was smoke pouring out of our kitchen window behind me. I never noticed the smoke pouring out so I was pretty calm about it all, not really letting my mind travel to the worst-case scenario.
Being calm in a situation like this is fairly unusual for me so my son said he was surprised to see me simply “chilling out” on the front lawn like having firefighters run into our house was an everyday thing. One of the first official responders on scene was a local police officer whose shift had ended a few moments before the fire department was toned out. I felt like a complete moron for calling them when he asked if I had seen flames and I had to admit I hadn’t. My worry had been how fast the house was filling with smoke and I couldn’t even get into the kitchen to see what was happenig.
I was sure that by the time they got there all the smoke would be gone, like that time I took the van to the mechanic and said it was pulling to the right and he said “It drives fine for me!”. The off-duty police officer assured me that they had indeed seen smoke billowing from an odd spot in the stove, so I wasn’t totally crazy (not totally), and because they couldn’t see flames they were dragging it out into the backyard as a precaution.
This removal of the stove essentially meant that the already failing appliance was now officially – toast – ha! See what I did there? Well, if not “toast” it was “dead.” `
I have to admit, I still feel guilty for calling, even though the firefighters kept telling me it was better to be safe than sorry. I did catch a look of disappointment on the face of one of the firefighters wearing all his gear. What a waste having to gear up for a bunch of smoke. Poor guy. (Note: I am being serious, not sarcastic. Poor guy! It was a boring call and I wouldn’t blame him if he was disappointed.) I thanked the firefighters and told them I knew they don’t have enough volunteers. They admitted they don’t.
“We’re hurting,” the fire chief told me and I immediately wished I didn’t have a bunch of weird autoimmune stuff going on so I could suit up and help out.
For one brief moment, I also wished I was still working at the local newspaper so I could write an article to urge locals to volunteer for the fire department and help their neighbors in an emergency. That feeling dissipated when I remembered the scars still left from the newspaper days.
Once the firefighters were gone we began looking for the cat and I began to realize several of my emergency response failings and that I would have never made it as a pioneer. When my husband chose to mock me later for calling him before 911 I defended myself by explaining: “Well, if there had been flames I would have called 911 first, but it was just smoke.” I decided not to mention the phrase “where there is smoke there is fire,” because that might have given him more ammunition than I cared for him to have.
The cat, incidentally, wondered downstairs about 15 minutes after all the excitement was over, blinking her eyes at me as if to say “What were you all stressed about? I’ve been upstairs sleeping the whole time.”
For now, we are cooking in an Instapot and an electric fryer until we figure out if the homeowner’s insurance will cover the cost of a new stove. If not, we will probably be cooking in the electric fryer and the Instapot for a while longer until we save up for one.
Two days after the fire the insurance company sent a guy to clean our kitchen. He scrubbed it from top to bottom. I didn’t even know our cupboards were that color. I told him I wish there had been some smoke and fire extinguisher dust in the rest of the house so he could clean it all.
Then I told him I was completely serious.
So that was my exciting day(s) last week, what excitement did you have? Let me know in the comments or link me to a favorite post that tells me.