Yesterday I had my first grease fire…

And I was a first class disaster.


Allow me to set the scene. Mom and Pop Meldon are visiting me and the Man for a few days. We had plans to do a movie night—Mad Max—and I was going to make Rainbow Trout and Fries. Our oven is pretty small, and the trays for the fish and homemade fries just barely fit. But I made it happen.

Things were taking a little while to cook. We’d cut the fries too thick. Mom and Pop Meldon were twiddling their thumbs—theoretically, and mostly in my head, because I was anxious about getting the night started—and I kept popping open the oven just a bit to check on the situation. Mom Meldon opted to make some toast in the meantime.

“I think something’s burning,” she said a few minutes later. I’d been in the living room with everyone else and just figured the seasoning I’d used was getting a little crisp.

Nope. JKz. There was an open flame at the bottom of the oven suddenly. As soon as I saw it, panic set in. Pop Meldon jumped up as I kept shouting, “What do I do? What do I do? Do I throw water on it? What do I do? D’you want me to get water?”

The Man stood around mutely, screaming internally.

Him, probably. I was too busy bouncing around with a jug of water and babbling to pay too much attention.

Smoke started billowing. Pop Meldon told us off for leaving our food in the oven and just managed to get it out and into the sink. The flames eventually died out on their own—smothered is the appropriate word, I guess.

Cue the apartment building’s fire alarm. People started evacuating. Smoke trickled into the hallways. Fire department shows up a few minutes later, and I sheepishly explained that our oven had caught fire.

It had been a grease fire. All the built-up crap at the bottom of our oven and the grease splashes on the door and walls caught fire. The Man thinks the oil from our potatoes dripped down and ignited things in the heat of the moment.

Our whole first floor had to be de-smoked. The firefighters were super nice about everything, some even made cute sounds at our animals as we gathered a puffed up cat and bunny into their carriers.

Back to me. Super embarrassed. Flustered. Panicked still, even with the fire out.

Once all was said and done, the main firefighter pulled me aside to get my info, and in the end, all he told me was: “Clean your oven.”

He was very sweet otherwise. Totally understanding as I nodded, mortified, to advice I should have been following already.

Once the smoke was gone and the firefighters left, on to continue the rest of their twenty-four-hour shift until 7 am this morning, I sat down and cried. No one got hurt. All my furbabies were okay. My parents were fine. We were safe. But I still cried, and both the Man and I were pretty shaken up for the rest of the night.

Because that fire could have been avoided.

Because usually when we cook, we throw everything in/on the oven, then sit in the living room nearby and wait for the timer to ding, doing other things in the meantime.

What if that had been what we were doing? We wouldn’t have noticed the fire until it was too late.

Which is terrifying.

So today, Mom and Pop Meldon took us to the hardware store to stock up on some necessary supplies. We’d always thought we were good to go in emergencies with our phones and flashlights and First Aid kit. But no fire extinguisher. No carbon monoxide detectors. So those were our first purchases today.

Since returning home, Mom and Pop Meldon have left, and I’ve been up to my elbows in oven degreaser. And the oven is just… It’s a walking, talking disaster. Don’t believe me?

Exhibit A: 

This is legit just the oven. Sure, the picture was taken post-fire, but this is generally just how it looks. This is apathy at its finest.

Now, last night, I couldn’t fall asleep. I was so angry with myself, mostly because I should have known what to do.

When I worked at a movie theater, I was listed as a “cast trainer”, and knew the fire evacuation protocol backward and forward. I’d watched that terrible 90s video about fire safety so many times I could mouth the dialogue along while new employees watched on in horror. I know you never put water on a grease fire (grease and water don’t blend, so the fire gets on top of the water and spreads more).

All these things I was aware of.

But when an actual fire was flickering in my oven, I did none of those things except panic.

So, after some frantic reading last night, here’s what I can now add to my list of what to do when a grease fire breaks out in the kitchen.

  • Stay calm. Seriously. I know that’s super difficult, but if you’re prepared, you’ll be calmer.
  • If the grease fire is in a pan you’re cooking with:
    • Smother it with any of the following:
      • Baking Soda or Salt
      • Another pan
      • A wet/damp cloth
    • Once flames are out, air out your living space, turn on fans, and probably toss the pan
  • If the grease fire is in the oven:
    • Smother it by:
      • Leaving the door closed and letting it burn out
        • Block any burners (if your stove is electric) so that more oxygen isn’t getting at the flame
      • Baking Soda and Salt (if small enough and you can reach it without burning yourself)

Once I’m done degreasing the absolute shit out of my oven, I plan to write the above instructions on a sheet of paper and tape it to the cabinets above the stove. Then, if it happens again, all I need to do is look up, then BAM, there’s something to tell my panicked brain what to do.

Also the fire extinguisher, now a permanent resident of the kitchen.

Some preventative measures I now know include:

  • Cleaning your oven regularly
    • This will involve oven degreaser for heavy-duty cleans. Make sure you wear gloves AND a face mask when you work with these kinds of chemicals. It burns your skin and makes you cough a lot.
  • Have a fire extinguisher purchased BEFORE an accident happens
    • Make sure your extinguisher is geared toward “liquid” fires—these are ideal for grease fires
    • Incidentally, just buy one that is rated ABC, which covers ALL kinds of fires (trash/wood/paper, liquid, and electrical)

Now, as a renter, I think I have the same sentiment as many: if it’s not mine, I don’t really give a flying fuck about it. The oven was dirty when I moved in, so as a bitter renter, I left it and planned to just make it dirtier before I left.





Because then I had a grease fire.

I know it’s a huge pain to clean up after someone else’s mess when you’re a renter, but just do it. For your safety and the safety of those living with you. One of my biggest fears with having pets in an apartment is that one day there’s a fire when we’re not home, and the whole building is up in flames while they’re trapped inside. I think that’s a pretty common fear. Well, that night, that could have happened had things been different, and I might have had to just leave them behind if things were bad enough.

And that terrifies me.

And it should terrify you. Everyone always thinks something like this won’t happen to them, but then it does, and honestly, you’re fucked if you don’t prepare just a little bit.

One thought on “Yesterday I had my first grease fire…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.