The plan was to have a sleepy, relaxing day after church ended and a simple meal at the end of the day. Then there was the decision to put the pan of oil on the stove and go into the den to answer my cellphone. Thirty seconds later came the smell of smoke and of something burning. Walking back into the kitchen I saw the stove top, the cabinets above, cabinets to the left and the right, and the ceiling engulfed in flames.
My reaction was to yell for my husband and son who were both asleep. Matt bounded up the stairs with my husband, Reid, not far behind. I grabbed the phone and dialed 911.
Matt hesitated for a short second, then shot into the pantry where we keep a fire extinguisher and, with flames shooting his way, backed out, pulled the pin and after a couple of attempts to pull the trigger, started dousing the cabinets with chemicals.
When the extinguisher ran out, flames still shot from the pan and would have reignited the cabinets so Matt grabbed some dish towels and carried the flaming pan outside and dropped in onto the cement patio. Reid was beating down the fire on the stove with a wet towel to suffocate the remaining fire, and, when Matt came back in, had him run downstairs and turn off the circuit breakers.
Policemen and ambulances were there in a couple of minutes, the fire department in about 5-6 minutes — a pretty impressive response time. Black smoke quickly filled the house and was down to chest level even though the fire was relatively short.
My throat burned and I was coughing although I went outside to escape the noise from fire alarms to talk to the 911 dispatcher. Reid and Matt were covered in soot and chemicals and troubled with headaches, coughing and sore throats.
Kudos to Matt for quick thinking and for a textbook response to the fire, according to the firemen. If he hadn’t put it out, it most likely would have burned through the drywall into the attic and been much worse. Still our kitchen was destroyed and seriously damaged.
When everyone left my husband called our family into the front room to kneel in prayer and thank Heavenly Father for his protection and love and to express our profound gratitude to him for all our blessings. We were all alive and well.
Within five minutes our little neighbor, Emily, was knocking at the door telling us her mom wanted us to come to dinner at their home. Our Mormon bishop heard and he and his wife stopped by and she arranged meals delivered for a couple of days. That evening friends invited us to their house for dinner on Monday. My visiting teacher came Monday, offered to take me to lunch, set up an evening meal, and said, “Use my kitchen while I am out of town the next couple of weeks.” At dinner Monday, friends offered us their downstairs while repairs were being made to our home.
My son, Thomas, who I was talking to and heard me yell, “My kitchen is on fire,” and who I then hung up on, was at our door in half an hour with his wife, Chelsea, dressed in sweats, with vacuum and cleaning rags in hand to help us wipe down all the valuables and dig out from under some of the horrible black residue. Another friend dropped off a portable wok for cooking and offers poured in of microwaves, rice cookers, skillets, etc.
My kitchen was destroyed but my heart overflowed with gratitude to God for his goodness and mercy and for friends and loved ones who so generously acted in his behalf.
You might suggest that God did not put out the fire but my 17-year-old son responded obediently to my cries for help. He used the skills he learned in LDS Scouting troops, in the process of becoming an Eagle Scout, to act coolly and calmly and put out the fire. My husband acted quickly, in ways he had taught Scouts for years and in keeping with instructions he had given our children in family home evening preparedness lessons.
Over the past few years members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been encouraged to emergency preparedness — spiritual, financial, physical and emotional preparedness. I am grateful for Christlike neighbors and for gospel teachings that encouraged us to be prepared for natural disasters and emergencies. I can certainly testify to their value and very real benefit.
Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World."