Our Kitchen Destroyed By A Grease Fire - Lessons Learned

by Jerrico_Usher

Last Night, Our Kitchen Went Up In Flames Because We Forgot To Turn Off The Burner...

You never know what is going to happen between the time you wake up and the time you lay your head to rest for the night. We're (me and Michelle) always experiencing serendipitous moments and lucky happenstances, almost daily lately. I got a new position with a very nice raise to go with it, Michelle got promoted to a management position complete with a raise, and it’s been rainbows and butterflies from there!

Although we're well prepared for a lot, we weren't prepared for this. Although we'd been blessed lately in our careers and online businesses as well, none of the money is yet concrete (as in I haven't put in the work hours yet or earned it) or present so this kind of setback can really set you back!

Don't Let This Happen To You!

(This All Happened On: February 10th, 2013 apx 6:30-7pm Pacific)

This was tweeted the second the fire/police dept. was called by a news reporter's twitter
tweet news
Our once lovely kitchen

Life Is About The Challenges And The Victories

We designed our life around preparation and opportunity, but there are always moments that challenge us, come unexpectedly, and even terrifyingly by surprise (like the fire that caused the damage in the picture above).  Those moments fortify our resolve and help us evolve and grow.  Overall we always see the silver lining in every situation (there is no good or bad there is just what is and what isn't), it's the only productive route when emotions are high, and everything from fear to anxiety tries to take you over as you stare at a 4 foot flame with a strong will to live!  I can only liken the experience with a 12th century family entering their kitchen to be greeted by a dragon blowing fire all over their stove, cabinets, and obliterating their seasonings, cute signage, and trinkets stacked anywhere near the stove (including spice racks!).



(start 42 secs. in) This video shows how our grease fire started and looked (we didn't use any water)


(the tray)
Typical Dinner setup

Our Story

Sunday February 10,2013; Roughly 6pm

Michelle And Jerrico Forever :)

it was about 5:30pm (all times are approximate)  Michelle would be home soon so I ran downstairs and started cutting up potatoes to make French fried potatoes (rounds), Some rice, and something to drink. I cut up the potatoes into round slices. She got home around 5:45 (rice done, I started cutting more potatoes) and by 6-6:15ish pm we had prepared our dinner and just needed the potatoes that were almost done frying (on Medium).

We have this great Italian or Australian tray we bought from a neighbor when they were moving back to Australia, it came with a charming cart we love too. We like the allure of the tray- makes us feel "privileged" (see picture above).

I cleared all the potatoes from the skillet but a few didn't seem done so I cranked up the heat (for that caramelizing effect) and let them cook a little more as I prepared the tray with condiments and plates.

I timed it just right (was in a hurry to get up stairs as Michelle just got home and I missed her all day) because those few potatoes left finished cooking about when I had the rice in the bowl and the condiments lined up on the longer plate (see above image of the tray set up too)... I took the last potatoes out and put them on the plate on my way to run upstairs...

"...and it was then that I made the mistake. In haste, I forgot to turn the burner off!"

Burner On High
Public Service Announcement Showing The Dangers Of Trying To Put Your Own Fires Out

"What Would Have Happened...

Had We Not Heard The Alarm When We Did?"

We pretty much immediately went up stairs and started to watch I think one of those reality shows for cooking while we ate. Thinking everything was off, and we could finally relax for the evening we ate and watched TV when the fire alarms started an orchastra.

About 3 minutes or so after we'd gone upstairs we heard a faint beeping noise like a fire alarm and I went down the stairs to see if everything was ok (we often even hear our neighbors alarms going off- these things drive us crazy but the fear I have is that when I will really need it like last night- will I even hear it?)

Upon going down the stairs I was immediately confronted with a bright light flickering (like a fireplace creating shadows in the room) and I smelled something nasty just before I heard the alarm while I was still upstairs (I thought Michelle or one of the cats farted!) but opening the door to our bedroom it was not hard to figure out there was a fire. The smoke was harsh enough that I held my breath worrying about inhaling anything toxic.

It wouldn't be long before all hell broke loose and smoke was pushing out everywhere! The flames were so bright I saw them half way down the stairs (through the banister). That alone freaked me out! I ran down the rest of the steps and into the kitchen yelling FIRE!!! Michelle, the kitchen is on fire!!!! The image below is what I felt/saw, but it was much smaller (more like the image above). Luckily the area was small thus the oxygen not abundant after a few minutes of flames sucking up the atmosphere, so upon trying to open a window initially this fanned the flames so I closed it until I had the fire under control.

The Art And Science Of Passion



I had seen a frying pan full of grease explode into flames once before but I was right there with a damp towel (not wet!) to throw over the pan to smother the fire. I also had a fire extinguisher back then, something I didn't have this time and the fire wasn't intimidating like this one was. Perhaps I saw it bigger than it actually was but it was hot, thick clouds of smoke permeated around it, and a million things were going through my head from what could happen to how to deal with the situation without losing my head. 

I maintained my calm in an impossible situation, but  couldn't think of a single thing, not even the wet towel, to do, so I panic’d and (started running fire movies through my head for a solution)  grabbed the first towel I saw and thought “I’ll smother it”. A wet towel is less likely to catch fire, but a dry one could instantly become an inferno flash fire sending particles everywhere and risking burns or furthering the fire’s cause. Until last night that lesson was hard wired into my head (don’t smother a fire with a dry towel) without actually requiring me to experience the moment- apparently I needed the experience because oh boy did I find out the hard way not to do that.

This time I was ill prepared and the fire had me in such shock I did all the wrong things (except throwing water on it, I knew emphatically that that wouldn’t help). From trying to douse a very hot flame with a cheap dollar tree shamrock towel (which instantly blew up into a string of plastic shrapnel landing all over my arm along with the hot grease that the towel was able to hit pretty hard (built up air from my trying to “stomp” the fire out?) before bursting into flames.

Not a very astute move on my part, in fact I’d not have the second degree burns on my arm had I at the very least got the towel dampened, but in hindsight I also realized the towel was covered in some type of Teflon material (water proofer) that melted and surrounded pieces of the towel and likely saturated with grease. I found a lot of melted and melted into the fibers, plastic pieces from THAT towel.

"Flour Saves The Day"


...Or What If Michelle Didn't Think To Use Flour...

...When She Did?

In this case we lost some property ($3,000 est. for new stove, overhead/hood, and replacement of "cabinet-tree"). The amusing part is that 2 news stations online/offline reported everything exactly the same except the "damages" costs were exaggerated as high as $21,000! (it's nowhere near that, even our manager laughed at those figures). Here are the three I found reporting the story (I screenshot copied each one at the end of this article so if the link goes dead or you don't want to leave the page it's there):

  • KTVC (news station, most accurate account/reporting)
After Fire, After Cleanup

Clean-Up Enlightened Us

It Looked Far Worse Than It Was (obviously)

After cleaning up it was easier to see the damages. The kitchen was actually cleaned up before the fire (whew!) other than the pan and some knives and cutting boards, but I pulled out a lot of things to try to get the fire under control including oven mitts and towels but the flour Michelle finally saved the day with ended the fire.

I think if that didn't work that we'd of been able to get this under control so we were thankful (even though the firefighters told us we shouldn't have and we knew why, the fact is it was what saved us- simple, ordinary, flour).

It's not a good idea to use flower as the fire could ignite it (in fact even though it doused the fire to a manageable level Michelle got a flash fire from it that made her face,neck, arms, and legs feel "hot" for hours but it didn't leave any lasting issues- I wasn't as lucky. She threw the flour over the pan side to side (not plopping it); the flames bursted then died off and went out enough for me to move the pan off the stove and into the sink where I put it out. The only thing left was to put out all the seasoning containers that had become seasoning candles! I smothered those with the oven mitts (somewhat fire retardant) but this caused, again, plastic shrapnel to fly about as I hit them in panic. 

This entire move has taught me never to put plastic containers on the back of the stove or within a certain distance of the stove.

Damages: Roughly $3,000 - Renters insurance may not cover it but property insurance the owner of the building has may cover all but 1,000 (which is manageable for us).

One site reported that we'd done 2,000 dollars damage to the building (not true other than damage to the middle cabinets about a grand) and 1,000 dollars damage to "our stuff"- also not true. We lost a grand total of maybe 15.00 for spices, nothing else that was separate from the stove, hood, and 3-4 cabinets got damaged- all our spices were bought recently at the dollar tree! 

There Is Always A Silver Lining!

The Silver Lining...

We know this is going to cost us- but there is also a silver lining. We're essentially being forced to upgrade our kitchen (oven/hood, cabinetry, spice racks, spices), cupboards, and a fresh coat of paint for the whole downstairs. This will motivate us to also want to refresh the upstairs so that's a bonus bonus! We're renting so this isn't really "our" upgrade but since we plan on staying here at least another year and we have to pay for the stove etc... We may as well enjoy it. 

It will cost us money we don't have but the universe always provides for us if we keep moving forward, no spilt-milk crying, clean up and move on to what you can bank on and smooth back out. In hindsight it still sucks but it will mean we won't have to fiddle with that burner that never worked (it's the biggest burner) when we needed it (it even sparked up a lot, making me worry about safety), and the stove was really old so it was likely a bigger fire hazard than we previously thought. The only drawback is we're going to be paying for the apartment complex owner's new stove but what we got was a busted piece of crap before- likely a fire hazard... (bygones)

This smaller fire may have prevented a bigger one later, for us or a future tenant!

In the same day this happened to us we read about another house that caught fire. The bathroom vent fan was old and caught fire burning out most of their top floor. They had to punch a hole in the ceiling to vent the fire. In retrospection of our own fire to deal with, we were very lucky- it could have been worse. Much worse. We made the news, radio news, and who knows where else, this is the web! Although I'd rather have met this great benefactor (new stove/cabinets) without first dealing with a fire and damage, we can only move forward or stagnate and feel depressed about it- which solves nothing and hinders everything else. Never walk away from a stove without making sure the burner is off- ESPECIALLY if your cooking flammable materials like oil/grease. This whole thing has us being very careful and "fire checking" the entire apartment.

Melted Sugar Container And Measuring Cup
Melted Sugar Container And Measuring Cup

When I finally got the fire to extinguish, I ran throughout the house opening windows. Michelle had already opened the one upstairs while she was looking for her cell phone to call 9-1-1 but couldn't find it. When I ran upstairs a mere 1-2 minutes after coming down the first time when I saw the fire, the smoke had become so dark and thick you couldn't even tell if the lights were on or not. 

This pouring of smoke prompted a neighbor to call 9-1-1, but by that time it was all over and handled. We gathered the cats to a safe place, and with the windows open and the fire stopped it didn't take long to air the house out. There was very little smoke left when the calvary came. I had never seen so many firemen, police vehicles, and people surrounding what turned out to be a small kitchen fire. They asked us a bunch of questions and I discovered the answers would be printed in the next days newspaper, online, and on live radio shows (how all our friends found out).

When they all left finally I got to work blasting music and scrubbing that kitchen down.

Demolished The Range Top And Knobs (before cleanup)
Demolished The Range Top And Knobs (b...
After Clean-up
After Clean-up

Although nobody was seriously injured or hurt, I got the brunt of the burns along my entire right arm/hands and slight burns on my left hand. Ironically the second degree burns don't hurt that much but my hands and fingers feel like they are on fire. I saturated the wounds with Neosporin and it took the pain down a lot, healing seems to be well underway now (36 hours later). Below are my injuries 24 hours later (Michelle had one very minor burn).

Second day (almost looked normal but it was far from)

24 Hours After Fire
24 Hours After Fire
24 Hours After Fire
24 Hours After Fire
24 hours after fire (covered in Neosporin)
24 hours after fire (covered in Neosporin)
most painful (although looks the least)
most painful (although looks the least)

3 Days and a lot of neosporin later

yea, it hurts (Jerrico's hand) this is 3 days later (looks like I'm a lizard under there)
yea, it hurts (Jerrico's hand) this is 3 days later (looks like I'm a lizard under there)
This one didn't hurt till 3 days later
This one didn't hurt till 3 days later


I hope my story inspires you to be more careful and possibly even plan ahead for a grease fire! We see the event was unfortunate, but the aftermath wasn't so bad. The damages were minimal, nobody was seriously hurt, and the apartment structure is safe, we just have to replace the cabinets that got burned or charred slightly. 

The results/aftermath?

New cabinets, stove, paint and a reason to stay in this apartment for another year (why pay for and not enjoy the new digs?). We'll definitely be more careful around the stove and especially grease (don't think we'll be cooking any time soon other than the microwave and going to restaurants until it's all up again).


Get a fire extinguisher for every floor and if you can afford it every room in your house. A small one would suffice and could be the only solution that works one day! There are extinguishers for each type of fire. From electric to chemical to normal wood burning fires, there is a right one to use. You can't douse grease fires with water and unless it's your only option don't use flour either. Flour can ignite a flash fire which could blind you or catch you or other things on fire. The only question now is... What does today hold for us?



(stories tend to disappear so here are screenshots of them (if your reading this years later :)
Bend Post news Clipping
Bend Bulletin (news)
Updated: 02/14/2013, Jerrico_Usher
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kimbesa on 06/03/2013

Ouch! So glad it wasn't worse, and your burns are healing. (I've liked aloe vera, straight from the plant for such things, but mine weren't as bad as yours.) A really good reason to check the stove, have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it!

Jerrico_Usher on 03/01/2013

the burns are healed about 80% now still driving me crazy... yea this is definitely a warning, I never thought this could happen to me!

katiem2 on 03/01/2013

Oh MY, So sorry to hear you experienced a grease fire in your home. I have left the burner on myself before and my fire conscious kids caught it. They remind me constantly now as if Mom is scatter brained. I felt awful sending the message to my kids I'm not safe in the kitchen. I'm very careful to check all my burners now, I have gas by the way!!!

I have a fire extinguisher near by the kitchen, one in the garage, one in the basement and one upstairs. You cannot live by chance, it's better to be safe than sorry. This is a great public warning and safety message and or warning.

I do both a visual and verbal check after cooking. This is a very strong possibility and much needed warning. Hope your healed and enjoying a new kitchen.

BTW Black Silk is a Wonderful :)K

Jerrico_Usher on 02/14/2013

Dude I think this second degree burn on my right arm is shaped like a 3 leaf clover- ironic due to with my site (thelucksource.com) I'm working on and that we were lucky it didn't go worse than it did...

Jerrico_Usher on 02/13/2013

yea it's hurting a bit but nothing major :) thanks for your concern!

Jerrico_Usher on 02/13/2013

thanks Hollie :) yea we're ok

HollieT on 02/13/2013

Sorry to hear your news, Jerrico! And those burns look nasty, but at least you and Michelle got out alive, that's the most important thing. :)

dustytoes on 02/13/2013

Baking soda is what to use instead of flour. And you should always call the FD right away even if you think you can manage the fire - just in case. You must have fire extinguishers, and thankfully you had smoke alarms. I am happy to hear that you and Michelle survived this and I hope your arm heals up soon Jerricho. That can't feel too good! (My son is a firefighter and I have heard a lot of stories.)

Jerrico_Usher on 02/12/2013

can't wait to see it, right now it looks horrible :(

Jerrico_Usher on 02/12/2013

yea we got lucky

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