I was in my teens and I believe my younger sister was as well, when one afternoon during a thunderstorm she got a hankering for some toast. I'm not sure where my mom was at the time, but my dad was in the family room watching television. My sister wanted butter on her toast, and she wanted it to be all soft and melty on there. So, she decided why not put some butter on the bread before putting it into the toaster oven so that it could melt while the bread was toasting? Turns out there was a very good reason why not. (Note: this might have worked if she used the little metal toaster tray, but she didn't.)
So, she stuck her buttered bread slices in the toaster oven and went to the refrigerator to find something to drink with her snack. She turned around to see that there were flames inside the toaster. Panic and shouting ensued. My father came in to see what was going on. More panic and shouting ensued, including a shout to unplug the toaster. Alas, the unplugging did nothing to extinguish the flames.
So, my dad ran back into the family room and returned with an afghan. He flung it over the toaster. It seemed a bit strange since the toaster wasn't cold in the slightest, but then he scooped the bundled toaster up and shouted at my sister and I to open the front door. We complied and seconds later he flung the toaster and afghan out onto the front lawn as the rain poured down and thunder boomed in the sky. That is the image that's forever seared into my brain.
Dad's heroics saved not only our kitchen, but the toaster as well. The flames were soon extinguished and the toaster was still in functioning order. That is, until my mom's incident some years later.
At the time my parents were preparing for entering the empty nester phase of their lives, and were living in a rented second floor condo while waiting for the new town home they had bought to finish being built. My mom had stopped to pick up a few groceries at the store on her way home from work, but when she arrived home the dog was anxious to go for his afternoon walk. So, she threw the perishables in the fridge and left the rest on the counter to put away when they returned.
After his stroll around the neighborhood, she and the dog returned back home, but the dog stubbornly refused to go up the stairs to their condo, and my mom heard a a noise which she presumed was somebody's car alarm going off. She struggled to get the stubborn dog to climb the stairs, but he was an 85-pound Golden Retriever, and when he didn't want to do something, there wasn't a whole lot you could do to convince him otherwise. Meanwhile that alarm continued to sound, and my mother realized that it seemed to be coming from their condo.
She raced up the stairs and into the condo, to find that the little kitchen was in flames. She attacked the flames with a fire extinguisher -- this was beyond the help of an afghan -- and called the fire department. They showed up to tackle the smoldering remains of the kitchen.
Apparently, one of those bags of groceries that Mom left on the counter toppled over and pressed down the toaster lever. The plastic bag melted, then ignited as it rested against the hot toaster surface and the flames then spread to the cabinets. The kitchen and the toaster were a loss, but fortunately the rest of the condo was fine and no one was injured in the blaze.
By the way, I learned about all this when that evening I received a call from my mom at my apartment. After saying hello, she immediately asked, "Do you keep your toaster plugged in when you're not using it?" The story of her afternoon misadventure followed. That Christmas Mom gave everyone she knew fire extinguishers for Christmas.
Suffice it to say, I have a healthy respect for toasters, and obsessively unplug them when not in use. In fact, I insist on tucking them away in a cabinet when I'm not using them, better safe than sorry after all.
So, I wish all the dads out there a happy Father's Day, and I wish everyone a day free of flaming toasters.
When not writing stories about toasters Alissa Grosso write YA novels. You can find out more about her and her books at alissagrosso.com