Popcorn Popper Remains

Daddy, There’s a Fire in the Kitchen

This story happened just over two years ago with no injuries and minimal damage. Just to put minds at ease.

Our light charred cabinets
Our light charred cabinets

I am sitting at my computer upstairs in our bedroom. My wife is sitting on the bed with her laptop and our then newborn. My son comes into the room and very calmly tells me ‘Daddy there’s a fire in the kitchen. He said it so calmly that I was assuming it to be very minor. He had, back when we allowed microwave popcorn in the house, microwaved one for 20 minutes instead of two. Lots of very icky smoke but no actual fire. We no longer have that stuff so as I am getting up I am wondering what it is. Something made me grab one of our two fire extinguishers from by our bedroom door. At this point our smoke detectors had not gone off. As I start down the stairs they start going off. I don’t blame the smoke detectors for two reason. The first is that my son did everything right and came straight upstairs to tell us as soon as he saw flames. The second we will get to in a minute. As I get to the bottom of the stairs I can see the fire. He was making popcorn using our hot air popper, something he has done before and had permission to do. The popcorn popper was on fire and still running. Thus it was drawing in air heating it, spinning it and causing the fire to be a twisting tornado of fire 4 feet tall, blow torching my cabinets. The second reason was the fire was very fast moving and not making a lot of smoke.

I holler for my wife to get everybody out and pull the pin on the fire extinguisher. Aimed it at the base of the fire and gave it a blast. Fire looks out. I reach behind the popcorn popper that is still running and pull the plug. Tons of smoke now. The cabinet above had all our plastic containers. I can see it in the smoke so I give it a blast and the another to the popcorn popper. That finishes the extinguisher and I retreat outside. Quick count to make sure everyone is out.

Waiting for the fire trucks I made a stupid move. I knew I had a second fire extinguisher in the bathroom off the kitchen so I reentered. I couldn’t find it in the smoke and I was having trouble breathing so back outside. I got lucky.

Fire Trucks
Fire Trucks in my front yard

The fire trucks arrived and confirmed that I had gotten the fire out. They removed all the flammable material from around the fire in case something was smouldering. Good reason to keep your kitchen counters clean. I was a little embarrassed by what they carried outside. They set up fans to vent the smoke and took statements from me and my son. Their opinion was that was an electrical fire in the popper. They also told my son he was a hero for doing things right.

It took us all of the next day to clean up the mess. Smoke took some scrubbing and some paint eventually. The dry chemical got everywhere in the house. More where I had used it but a fine layer everywhere. Not good to breath and hard to clean. There was a little damage to white strip on the front of the cabinet that needed replacing. Some of our plastic containers had melted. Some had smoke damage to the point it wasn’t worth trying to save them.

Popcorn Popper Remains
The Earthly remains of our popcorn popper

Thing I am thankful for:

1. That my son knew what to do in a fire. He reacted very well. I have learned that when he is very calm, not his normal state, that I have to take what he is saying very seriously. His quick thinking got us an extra 30 seconds over the smoke detectors.

2. That we had fire extinguishers in the house. The fire was growing very fast and literally being fanned. The kitchen at minimum would have been a loss even as quick as the fire department was.

3. That I knew were at least one of the fire extinguishers was. The other was where I though it was just couldn’t see it.

4. That our smoke detectors worked. I probably still would have gotten the fire out. We all certainly would have gotten out of the house.

5. That the cupboard door was off. We were switching hinges and it hadn’t been put back.

6. Many more that fall under the what if category. What if I hadn’t grabbed the fire extinguisher…


Have you talked to your kids about what to do in a fire?

Do you have and exit plan and a meeting place?

Do you have a fire extinguisher? Do you know where it is? Will it be reachable in a fire?

Do you smoke detectors work?

A good site to start talking to your kids about what to do in a fire is:

Sparky Fire Safety website

It is run by the National Fire Protection Association.

If you know of any other good site for teaching what to do in a fire please post them in the comments below. Fire fighters are welcome to comment on anything that we did wrong and what we should have done. I’ve already been chewed out for going back in.

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