The toaster, the flaming pop tart, and how I used a fire extinguisher

First, let me start by giving you the end of the story: all is well and no one or no-thing suffered damage, save one sad little blueberry pop tart. We thank the Lord because it could have gone differently. I want to make sure that the focus of the story is not on the flaming breakfast pastry, but on the safety measure used to quash the incident. EVERYONE needs to know how to use a fire extinguisher.


So here is the story: I was down the hall getting ready to go meet with a friend of mine for lunch, when I heard my 15-year-old daughter say very sternly and with clarity, “Mom, the toaster is on fire!” I paused because I thought she said what I thought she said, but I wanted to confirm. “What did you say?” I hollered back as I poised myself for action.

“The toaster is on fire!!”

Without hesitation, I sprang  into action to get from my room to the kitchen. She and out eldest son met me midway down the hall. They were relatively calm, so I figured that I wasn’t walking into a kitchen filled with flames (that, and the fact that the fire alarm had not yet began to scream that there was a fire in the house.)

Nevertheless, I didn’t quite know what I was walking up on. When I finally reached the kitchen, I saw a small column of flame coming from one of the 2 slots in the toaster. I knew instantly that it was a poptart that has caught fire.

Here is what happened next, and the simultaneous lessons that I want to pass on to you:

The instinct is to use water to put out a flame. But then you remember that you can’t throw water on an electrical (or grease ) fire, so I knew I couldn’t go with my reflex.


It is  most helpful to have an extinguisher on hand, especially for the kitchen. We had picked up 2 a few years back, when we were hosting a graduation party for a friend’s daughter in our home. When the cooking crew brought in those small cans of Sterno heat to help keep food on the tables warm from underneath, that was my cue to run to our local Walmart and purchase a couple of extinguishers, in case something went south with those little flames 🙂

Have it in a place that you can easily reach. You may have to put it in a cabinet away from small children. My kids are young adults, so I keep it in sight, right near my microwave.  I knew just where to reach for the extinguisher, helping to stave off the chance for panic.

This is a big one: familiarize yourself with the device.  Because I had taken a few minutes to look over the device when there was not a crisis, it was much easier to know what to do when there IS one. Take a look at the nozzle, and know where the pin is. here is a helpful acronym to remember: PASPULL pin, AIM at the base of the fire, and SWEEP side to side.


Yes, thankfully we were able to get the column of flame put out quickly by using the PAS method. While we don’t have a photo of the actually fire (don’t ever stop safety measures to get a picture!), we do have a few of the aftermath due to using the extinguisher:











even down the hall....
even down the hall….
...and on the keys!
…and on the keys!










Be prepared for a bit of a cleanup effort after discharging one of these. It is like having baking soda thrown everywhere within a small radius of where you put out a fire. Also, the extinguisher has a bit of a kick because the contents are under pressure. so when I aimed for the fire, I also got the stove, the floor, the hallway and the key holder 🙂 It is a gritty residue, so I had to get out the vacuum in addition to wiping down the counter surfaces.

I have two last recommendations. First, replace when the gauge reads “empty”. That means that there isn’t sufficient pressure left to expel the contents and extinguish a fire:



Second, have one for the kitchen, and at least one for your home in general. The official fire safety recommendation is probably at least one FE per floor, I would think. You don’t want to have to go far to find one when a fire has started. {I was really glad that the extinguisher was handy – really glad.}


Thanks for stopping by and taking a moment to read my story. My hope is that you or someone who you know will be more knowledgeable on what to do should a fire start in your home and how to actually use an extinguisher to put it out. I want your story to have a boring ending like mine: all that we lost was a tiny pop tart, and we got a new toaster 🙂

Preparation is empowering,

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