A few weeks ago Helga was baking a blackberry pie (we’re the domestic type), when she accidentally dropped the pan in the oven. I was in my bathroom applying mascara when I heard her dismayed cry.

“Is something wrong?” I asked as I held my mascara wand aside.
“Yes…” she said warily.
“Is it serious?”
“Yes…” she said, her voice raising an octave. And somehow, I knew.
“Is it a fire?”
“Yes!!!!” She squealed.

From both sides of the apartment, Leisel and I converged in the kitchen and looked over Helga’s shoulder to find a small but healthy flame rising in the oven.

“What do we do??” I asked.
“Throw a towel over it!” Leisel cried.
“NO, that will just catch fire, too!” I screamed.
“How about flour, won’t that smother it?” Helga asked, clutching some White Lily All-Purpose.

Laura and I look at each other and shrug as Helga tossed some on her blackening pie. The flame shuddered a moment before leaping higher and pouring out smoke — meanwhile, I ran frantically to the door as the fire alarm started to screech. I waved the door open and shut in hopes of airing out the apartment, but the air kept thickening as my roommates continued to hustle chaotically in the kitchen. I couldn’t imagine how one small flame could produce so much smoke and wondered if it was getting worse.

“Should I get the fire extinguisher??” I called desperately.
I ran out the door, around the corner and came face to face with the fire extinguisher. It’s stored tightly behind a plate of glass with red letters brandishing the message BREAK IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. I waved my hands wildly as I tried to figure out how to get the fire extinguisher out. WHY IS IT ALL LOCKED UP? I fumbled with a rectangular chink of metal that was hanging from the case* and looked for some kind of keyhole until I frantically threw it aside, raised my fist, and prepared to slam it into the pane.

But then I stopped, looked at my pretty knuckles, and turned on my heels and ran back into the apartment.

“Are we sure we need the fire extinguisher?? Do we have this under control?”

Leisel was in the dining room waving smoke frantically out the back door and Helga was still yelling over the oven. Mia was running around excitedly and the alarm still shrilled. No one was listening to me and it did not look like we had anything under control. All I could remember was Leisel telling me once about how fire doubles in size every thirty seconds. I let out a breath in defeat, spun around again, and went back to the red box encasing the extinguisher. I paused for just a moment to consider if my sandaled foot would be more effective (and less painful) than trying to punch my arm through, when suddenly Leisel ran out after me.

“IT’S OUTTTTTTT!!!” She yelled frantically. “Don’t do it, it’s okay! It’s out!”

My shoulders drooped with relief as Leisel and I started laughing nervously about the chaos. We walked back in the apartment and opened the windows, and then we all looked down at the black, crumbled blackberry pie that’d been dumped into the sink. It was a sad sight, and as I looked down at it I mentally noted that I need to purchase renter’s insurance.

A few days later I told Jodi about our fiasco and she looked at me incredulously.

“You threw flour on a flame? Have you never heard of flour silo explosions? That stuff is as flammable as it gets. You’re lucky you didn’t blow up the entire kitchen. You’re supposed to use baking soda.”

I relayed this information to Helga and we agreed that beefing up on our fire safety knowledge and buying a personal fire extinguisher might be a good idea.  We even pulled out a card for a local insurance agent.
But the days go by and we do nothing… (insert doom music)

*Come to find out, that chink of metal hanging from the fire extinguisher case is how you’re supposed to break the plate of glass. Handy! Good to know!