Jessica and her family experienced unintended consequences while trying out a new recipe. “It was Father’s Day, June 18, 4:11 pm when the fire occurred,” remembers Jessica Gentile of SE Portland. “My son found a new recipe to try.” After putting oil into the pan and turning on the burner, Jessica admits that she “went into the living room for what seemed like just less than thirty seconds!”
When she came back into the kitchen to tend to the pan there was already a 5- to 6-inch flame above the pan. Looking back, Jessica wondered if the burner was on too high, or perhaps there was too much oil in the pan or a combination of the two. “I wanted to put it out; however, it was quickly growing,” she said.
After getting her family and pets outside, Jessica went back to try and put the fire out herself. But by the time she reentered her home, the flames had climbed up to the ceiling. Just minutes after she saw the small flame on the pan, her usually bright and full-of-light kitchen was completely black and filled with smoke.
Determined to put it out, Jessica put on an oven mitt and removed the pan from the stove. She never thought she might get burned. “I don’t clearly remember running outside with the pan of scalding oil.” The hot oil spilled onto the living room carpet and Jessica’s arm as she carried the pan outside. “I collapsed in the yard; putting the pan face down onto the grass.”
Either the flames or the hot oil severely burned her right arm and shoulder. As her son frantically called 911, Jessica ran from neighbor to neighbor, desperately trying to borrow a fire extinguisher. When she found one, she was unable to get it to work, due to her heightened emotional state coupled with the shock of her severe burns. The fire continued to spread to the living room while smoke billowed from the roof. “I can’t recall ever being so scared in my entire life,” said Jessica.
Firemen and paramedics arrived shortly thereafter. Despite being badly injured with second- and third-degree burns to her arm, Jessica did not want to leave her home out of concern for her children and pets. Nevertheless, she was taken to Legacy Emanuel Hospital’s Burn Unit. “Burns are extremely painful and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to manage the pain. The pain ‘burned’ nonstop 24 hours-a-day for the first two weeks after the fire,” remembers Jessica.
The next day, Jessica’s co-workers reached out to Red Cross. A volunteer was at her home by early afternoon to assess the situation. Jessica said, “She gave me a packet of information along with a debit card. My friends helped me find a local hotel that would allow pets. Then I began to try to piece together the extent of my injuries as well as the damages to the house we were renting.”
The Red Cross volunteers called Jessica almost daily for two weeks after the fire. They offered her emotional support, guidance, and resources, reassuring her that she and her family would get through the difficult event. "They proved to be an invaluable resource and support for me as I picked up the pieces that were left of my life and began to move towards healing," said Jessica.
Months later, Jessica and her family moved into an apartment, since their home was too heavily damaged. "We lost most of our personal belongings but are slowly rebuilding. A skin graft was taken from my thigh to cover my arm and both injuries are healing up. We will keep moving forward!" Jessica exclaimed.
Note: Cooking fires are the Number 1 cause of home fires and home injuries. The leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking, such as frying, according to the National Fire Protection Association. More than 55% of nonfatal, home-cooking fire injuries happen when people try to fight the fire themselves. The American Red Cross recommends that you never leave food unattended on the stove and keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen. Also, never go back into a burning building. For more information, please visit http://www.redcross.org/news/article/Avoid-Kitchen-Fires-Use-Red-Cross-Tips.