The Difference Between A Smoke Detector & A Fire Detector

Last summer I wrote a post about a Fire! I had in my dryer.  What was so amusing to me after it all happened was that even though the entire laundry room and back hallway were filled with black billowing smoke, the smoke detector never went off.  I suppose this could be overlooked if the smoke detector were someplace at the other end of the house, but it was right in the thick of it in the back hallway.

To make matters worse, I swear at least once or twice a week when I am baking something in the oven, the darn smoke detector starts blasting.  It has gotten to the point that the family teases me that if the smoke detectors not going off, Mom’s not cooking.

Well, this afternoon I decided to try a new recipe for Saganaki or flaming cheese.  I was making gyros with fresh pita bread for dinner and thought it would be just like going down to Greek Town for dinner if I served the cheese we typically started our meal with down there.

I wasn’t sure what type of cheese to use, as I decided on this little addition to dinner while I was at the grocery store, so winged it and bought something called “Frying Cheese.”  How bad could it be?

When I got home I found a recipe for Saganaki, and of course I’d bought the wrong cheese, but at $5.00 a chunk, I decided it would be good enough.  I marinated the cheese in brandy, dredged it through some flour, heated it in a cast iron pan with olive oil, and then called everyone in the kitchen.

Hubby suggested I light the cheese right on the stove since that area is fire resistant.  Not being the bravest of souls, I gave him the match, set the cheese in the cast iron pan in the center of the cooktop, and poured 1 ounce of brandy over the bubbling cheese.  Hubby struck the match and — OPA! Flaming Cheese!

Immediately I knew I should have used a bit less brandy.  The flames shot up to the ceiling, scorching the light fixture.  I tried squeezing the lemon wedge over the flames to put them out (as directed), but the flames were too high.


Then, as the flames continued to glow red I noticed that the hot pad cover for the cast iron skillet handle was on fire. Things were just snowballing out of control.  Of course everyone panicked, Hubby tried beating the flames out, but wasn’t thinking and used the long wooden matchstick he’d used to light the cheese in the first place.  The match relit and joined in the billow of flames collecting on top of the stove top.

I grabbed the rest of the lemon wedges, braved the flames, squeezed every ounce of juice I could over the cheese and slowly the flames began to subside.  Of course the sink was two feet from the cooktop and why we didn’t just douse it with water I’ll never know, but at least the cheese wasn’t ruined.

Now as scary as all of this might seem, we were all laughing the entire time this was all going on. Why?  Well you see, no sooner had Hubby lit the cheese and yelled “Opa,” and the “Fire” detector went off.  There was no smoke, just flames. The smoke detector is probably 15 feet from the cooktop, around a corner, in the back hallway and the instant the fire began, BAM! it went off. Am I missing something here?

So obviously there is a distinct difference between a smoke detector and a fire detector, as mine doesn’t go off when there is actually smoke in the house, only fire.  I suppose this does have its place, but it really makes me think about the saying “Where there’s smoke…”

Oh well, the singe marks on the ceiling fixture give me a great excuse to clean it, the cheese turned out pretty darn good, we all had a great laugh, and no real damage done.  All in all, a good time, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.



When you are home alone and there’s a fire in the house, is there any point to yelling “FIRE?”

Granted should there be someone walking by very close to your closed window or perhaps a peeping Tom might just be in the right place at the right time, hear your screams and come to your rescue, but for the most part, I doubt that anyone is going to hear you. This brings to mind, “If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?”

As I was canning this morning, multitasking with doing laundry, I was suddenly overtaken by the distinct smell of something burning. Checking all the burners on the stove, three of which were on, I verified that I hadn’t left a towel on one of them — again. So I did what any level-headed housewife would do, I ignored it.

After about five minutes, the smell surprisingly got worse. What could it be? I thought to myself. So I checked the oven. Nope, it wasn’t even on. Neither was the dishwasher. But turning towards the back hall and laundry room, what did I see? Yep, black smoke billowing from the laundry room.

Now I don’t believe in relying on anyone else to clean up my messes, so I figured I’d better get in there and find where the smoke was coming from and what I’d done to cause this. Entering the room, I immediately grabbed the fire extinguisher (I have one on every level of the house just for such an emergency) and walked back to the kitchen.

Well, I had to read the instructions, didn’t I?

So as the smoke is filling the kitchen, I read: “Pull pin…” Wait a minute, this sounds a lot like a grenade. But I keep reading, “Pull pin. Hold unit upright. Aim at base of fire. Stand back 6 feet.”

Already I know this is going to be a problem. I don’t have 6 feet of space in the laundry room. Oh well, at least I got the gist of it, so off to the laundry room I go, pin pulled and extinguisher at the ready.

Both the washing machine and dryer were going, but I could tell that the smoke was coming from the dryer. You ever get the feeling you’ve done this before? Deja vu most definitely. This wasn’t the first time smoke was streaming from the dryer. The only question I had was whether or not to open the bottom panel of the dryer or not. That’s where the fire was, I knew this from experience. Instead I opened the dryer door to stop the dryer and opened the window.

The dilemma: If I open the panel and let lots of fresh air in there, would this cause a “back draft?” But if I didn’t open the panel to extinguish the flames, would all the wiring under there be toast?

Being the good, experienced housewife that I am, I called Hubby.

By now the smoke wasn’t as bad, or I was getting used to it. The open window was probably helping too.

Hubby didn’t answer.

What to do? What to do?

Deciding that I really didn’t want to have to buy a new dryer, I returned to the laundry room and removed the panel. Doing this with one hand, as the other had to have the extinguisher at the ready should the flames come barreling out of the dryer, was no easy task. The panel was hot, but not so much that I couldn’t handle it, so I knew the fire was farther back in the machine. With much effort and a few choice words for why this stupid panel was ever replaced after the last fire (apparently Hubby doesn’t think this is too uncommon an occurance for a dryer to warrant getting a new one) the panel fell forward and I peered into the blackened underbelly of the dryer.

Smoke obscured my view but as it slowly cleared I could see that soot was everywhere, but no flame. That was good, right? No flames, means no fire. So I took my fire extinguisher and left. No sense sitting in the smoke-filled room worrying about the wires now, so I went back to canning.

It took Hubby over an hour to return my panicked message. By that time the smell was bearable and my second batch of jalapeno peppers were in the canner.

So to answer my own question, “When you are home alone and there’s a fire in the house, is there any point to yelling ‘FIRE?’” No, not really. But even more importantly, why didn’t the smoke detector that is right outside the laundry room door go off? It certainly has no problem going off every time I use the broiler in the kitchen or for that matter the oven. There’s come to be a saying around our house, “If the smoke detectors not beeping, Mom’s not cooking!” And yet, with black smoke billowing from the laundry room, it didn’t make a peep. This definitely warrants more pondering.

For now, I’m glad that the fire didn’t spread, the smell is getting a bit better, the remainder of the laundry in the laundry room is all laundry to be hung outside, and I now have a better grasp of how to work my fire extinguisher, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.