A Facebook post by a former college roommate of mine gave me a little laugh recently.
This roommate was a great person, but a menace in the kitchen. She started multiple fires the year we lived together, ranging in cause from frozen pizza packaging that wasn’t supposed to go in the oven to spaghetti noodles left hanging, dry, over the edge of a hot pan. Once when a burner ignited some paper towels she tossed them into the half-full garbage can instead of the sink.
So it seemed very fitting, then, that her Thanksgiving Day post to Facebook was accompanied by a photo of a flaming oven and a joke about grease fires being a new family tradition.
Luckily, her current house and our former college apartment escaped unscathed. But not everyone’s house does.
Each year at the Hermiston Herald we cover house fires that could have been prevented. Sometimes carelessness in the kitchen was the culprit, other times it was an article of clothing or stack of papers that got too close to a heater or lamp. Cigarettes have sent homes and dry grass up in flames, as have unattended burn piles in yards.
All of those mistakes are easy to make. Everyone does stupid things sometimes. I once forgot to turn off a burner and came home to a kitchen full of smoke and a plastic soup ladle melted to the bottom of a pan. It happens.
But let’s all try this year not to be the one it happens to.
When I was a little kid, I was scared of basically everything, so my parents got me a plastic Little Mermaid night light to set on my dresser by my bed. It helped for a few days until someone said something to me about how I shouldn’t set it on top of papers in case it got too hot.
Little me couldn’t sleep a wink after that, because I was too busy staring at plastic Ariel, waiting for her to catch my wooden dresser on fire at any moment.
My parents eventually got wise to the fact the night light was making me more scared and ditched it (and also, at some point, the clown face on the wall, but that was for non-fire related reasons).
Obviously I was too afraid of a lamp that was specifically designed to be set on dressers and night stands, but little-kid Jade had the right idea about being careful with flammable objects around hot things.
The great thing about technology is that it has evolved in a way to help make up for most of our dumb mistakes. Curling irons and clothes irons eventually go cool to the touch if we leave them plugged in all day by mistake. Space heaters have sensors that shut them off automatically if they tip over.
Most of us will traipse through life a little on the careless and forgetful side and be totally fine.
But a few of us will not, and that’s where the caution comes in. Please don’t burn yard waste on windy days. Don’t throw cigarettes in flammable places. Keep flammable objects clear from stoves, heaters, heat lamps and other hot things. Read the instructions on your Christmas lights and power strips. Don’t leave candles burning unattended. Keep a fire extinguisher handy and your smoke detectors in good working condition.
Consider this your reminder to keep yourself, your family, your pets and your most treasured possessions safe this winter. If we interview you this year, we want it to be for a happy reason.