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I dragged bags of groceries into our apartment’s tiny kitchen and placed items in the pantry and fridge, navigating around Leisel as she chopped up veggies. We talked about our days as I inwardly wondered what to make for dinner, when I noticed a strange haziness to my vision. My nose instinctively curled as a sharp smell struck my nose and I instantly placed the problem. I turned around to see smoke billowing out from the eye of the stove and ran to the front door to let in some air as I threw a word of warning to Leisel over my shoulder. She turned in surprise (she was only boiling water and as she says, she’s not that bad of a cook) and Helga jumped up from the couch as the fire alarm went off at its high pitch. As I fanned the door I leaned over to look into the kitchen. Helga stood in horror and I saw Leisels face lit up by an orange glow.

You would think after the fiery fiasco a couple weeks prior, we would have gotten some kind of fire safety plan in order, but that would be hoping too much of us. Everything went down roughly the same as it did before:

“What do we do??” I asked.
“Throw a towel over it!” Leisel cried.
“NO, that will just catch fire, too!” I screamed. But then I pointed at them and yelled, “NOT flour!! Flour is explosive!!”

So we all stood there, mildly panicked and mostly helpless, as the eye of the oven continued to burn and the fire alarm beeped at an ear splitting pitch. As I stood there waving the the front door in and out I felt the need to do something useful other than scream “no flour!!” So I ran outside and once more faced the red BREAK IN CASE OF EMERGENCY on the glass protecting the fire extinguisher. Again, I’d learned nothing after the last fire drill, so I once more flailed my arms, flung aside the worthless metal bar hanging from the case,* and felt the need to revaluate the degree of seriousness in 2601 before slamming my fist through glass. So I ran back to the apartment and peeked inside. I couldn’t see the fire from my vantage point, but I could see the glow of it on Leisel’s face and assumed the fire was getting larger. My worst case scenario imagination (always fine tuned) feared the flame would get high enough to hit the cabinets and then spread out to do damage who knows where else.

While I stood there watching all the chaos inside, an image of a guest speaker back in college sprung to my mind. He was an insurance agent, and he was telling us how we face financial ruin if we burn down an apartment building because we’re responsible for the damage of everyone’s belongings. The moral of his story: Buy renter’s insurance. Preferably from him. I’d left that lecture room all those years ago impressed by the doomsday picture he’d painted but went on with my life with nary a care in the world. But now, back in the present, I stood at the doorway and realized that after what felt like an eternity no one had managed to put out the fire in the kitchen.

“I DON’T HAVE RENTER’S INSURANCE!” I yelled and I grabbed one of Leisel’s hefty interior design books off the coffee table (finally! it’s about to be useful!) and ran back to the fire extinguisher. I took the corner of the book and rammed it into the plate glass. It bounced off with a dull thud and I stared at the case incredulously. What kind of glass is this??!! Who are you protecting your precious fire extinguisher from?? I looked over my shoulder for a second to see if one of my roommates was going to run out and tell me everything was okay, but this time no one seemed to be coming.  I heaved the book up again, let out a war cry (it might have been a panicked girly scream, but work with me) and slammed the book into the pane once again. This time I heard the pop and shatter of glass and I watched as the shards rained down around me. Success! I grabbed the extinguisher in one hand and Leisel’s fancy design book in the other and ran to my apartment. As I nudged through the door I looked down at the fire extinguisher–which was alarmingly heavy, by the way– pins and tags and twisty ties needed to be pulled off and broken before I could even get to the part where I put out a fire. Who makes these things?! I screamed inside my head. This is entirely too complicated for an In Case of Emergency tool!!! But just then Leisel ran up to me. “It’s out! Everything is fine.” She pointed to the big red can in my hand. “We don’t need it.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I looked down at my fire extinguisher, relieved to not have to use it, but fully realizing what I’d just done (in an ‘oh crap, I just needlessly broke through a pane of glass and left a mess’ kind of way). Leisel and I walked back to the case and looked at all the glass scattered around our feet. She nudged a shard with her foot and said, “Well. I didn’t know you had that in you. Good to know.”

Also good to know (copied and pasted from our fine friends at USFA):

  • If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan (make sure you are wearing the oven mitt). Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. Leave the lid on until the pan is completely cool.
  • In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing. The flame will suffocate.
  • If you have a fire in your microwave oven, turn it off immediately and keep the door closed until the fire is out.
  • A large amount of baking soda can also be used to extinguish a grease fire. Never put water on a grease fire.

Oh, and I bought renter’s insurance.

* Although I still hadn’t figured it out, that chink of metal hanging from the fire extinguisher case is still how you’re supposed to break the plate of glass. Handy! Good to know!

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