My parents-in-law recently came all the way from Africa to visit us. And we have learned an important lesson from their visit: Avoid fire extinguishers at all costs, except as a last resort!
I repeat, in all seriousness, that these are weapons of mass destruction – especially the small, cute, red ones that read “one-time use only.” We thought that meant that they contained enough spray only to be used once, but that hopefully we could control the amount and time that we used it.
Not so! Apparently it means the instant you press the lever, it unleashes a gargantuan barrage of chemical spray-dump that goes everywhere – coating our kitchen, our dining room and our living room – regardless of the fire’s actual size or duration.
It all started on the final day of my parents-in-law’s visit, when I had been congratulating myself on the relative success of their stay here. (Oh, the irony.)
The house had been cleaned, the meals had been prepared in advance and enjoyed at the right times, the planned entertainments had gone well, etc. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.
At that time I popped into the kitchen to prepare dessert for our final dinner together, where both my parents and sister-in-law would join us. My husband stayed in the dining room overlooking the kitchen to visit with his father and mother while I switched on the oven to preheat.
It was such a lovely dessert, too – sniff – lovely little chocolate cakes with liquid centers, nestled within ramekins. But anyways, I digress.
“What’s that?” my husband shouted suddenly, starting up from his chair. I glanced toward the oven and noticed orange flickering. As I opened the oven door, I saw that the base heating element was aflame, although everything was still fairly contained.
“Switch off the oven!” my husband said, diving for the fire extinguisher. I switched everything off while he cut off the cord binding the safety pin, pointed the nozzle and squeezed the trigger.
The fire went out immediately. But the fire extinguisher just kept going … and going … and going!
“Switch it off, oh!” my father-in-law said.
“I’m trying!” my husband said, wrestling vainly with the extinguisher.
He tried to lift the trigger, stop the nozzle, slow down the spray, anything – to no avail. Plumes and then clouds of chemical spray spurted forth, leaving mounds of gray-white residue in its wake.
By the time it all finished, the whole kitchen floor was coated in the powder. Everyone was coughing and noses were running.
Our clothes and feet had turned a discomforting gray-white hue, and everywhere we went we left footprints in the powder. (You could see where everyone had been standing because they were the only spots in the kitchen that weren’t gray-white!)
Anything that hadn’t been covered was ruined, including the dessert. I’m so thankful the main dish had been covered, though, and everyone was very gracious and helped clean up. Just another day with the in-laws!
Five days afterward we are still cleaning up the mess. Not only did the powder go everywhere (turning up even in closed kitchen cupboards and underneath the oven door), but it also apparently is corrosive and needs to be cleaned as quickly as possible.
That’s difficult to do when it keeps coming back – even on surfaces you previously cleaned! You wipe down the counter one night only to find it coated again in fine powder the next morning.
(After the catastrophe, I found this link helpful for instructions on how to clean up after a fire extinguisher: http://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-clean-up-fire-extinguisher-chemicals)
So anyway, that’s my in-law horror story of the month. What’s yours? Feel free to share so I don’t feel so bad!