One night my husband called from work to say that he would be about half an hour late. I had just poured olive oil in a frying pan. A half hour? I went over to my computer and saw a note from my friend in Spain. I was well into answering her note when the fire alarm went off.
Our house was built in the 1950s and the ladies who had it built had every security device built in. There is a disco-type red strobe light on the side of our house and our fire alarm is wired directly to the town fire department.
From where I sat I saw the lick of a flame over the side of the frying pan. I rolled back my chair and sprinted from my desk to the stove, wondering how the pan had caught fire.
Our son, hyper-vigilant, probably because this was not the first time in his life the fire alarm had sounded, came running down the stairs to see the flames reaching about four inches into the air.
“The fire extinguisher! The fire extinguisher!” he yelled.
Time, not flames, have a way of slowing down in emergencies. I was in a bubble of calm as I took the fire extinguisher off the wall. Part of my mind carefully pulling out the pin, another part of my mind thinking, “Really? Fire extinguisher at this close range…?” A third part that had written research on fire extinguisher manufacturers in Spain thinking that “Orfeo” was a much better brand name....all the while my fingers worked the pump on the extinguisher.
Nothing happened. My son, witnessing the failure to extinguish the now 7 inch-high flames, was out the front door screaming, “Fire! Fire!”
I shouted to my daughter, “Go tell your brother to be quiet, I’ve got this.” She was in the kitchen doorway, skeptical but obedient; she went out the front door to try to stop her older brother.
I took the pan with ten- inch flames over to the kitchen sink and paused. The flames and the curtain over the sink seemed a too happy pairing for a disaster.
I walked the pan back over to the stove and set it down, contemplating the foot-high flames.
Oh, boy. Maybe it was a good thing the lad was out shouting, “Fire! Fire!”
I opened the pan drawer and saw my Mom’s old Alzheimer-inducing fifteen pound aluminum pan. That pan had a cover. Perfect.
But by now the pan on the stove was shooting flames higher than I could reach. I gripped the handle and put the pan down on the floor and reached high over the flames and lowered the eight pounds of aluminum lid down slowly over the flames. They didn’t so much “hisss” as they went out as they “shwooped” in like when you get the wind knocked out of you.
I held the shimmering pan an arm’s length ahead of me as I walked out the front door. I was putting the pan on the front stoop when the town fire trucks pulled up.
“Everything all right here?” asked the Chief.
“It is now,” I answered and grimaced as I nodded to the aura-emitting pan.
“No harm done to the kitchen?” the Chief continued.
“No, I don’t think so.
“Well, you know the drill; we have to check it out.”
“Of course, of course. Come in.”
I held the door for the Chief and six handsome and heavily turned out fire-fighters.
They walked straight to the kitchen. I explained that I had thought the stove was turned off but the heating element must have still been on. The men moved around the small kitchen. They filled it. One bent down and I saw that where I had set the frying pan down was an almost perfect circle burned into the floor.
“Well,” said the Fire Chief after careful examination, “At least you got a story out of this one.”