I have deathly afraid of fire.  Truly, it's my one true, crippling fear.  Ever since my grandparents' house caught fire during our family's Christmas Eve celebration back in the early 80s, I have a paralyzing fear of my house burning down.  I obsessively and compulsively cross of a checklist off in my mind each time I walk out the door.  On many occasions, I go back in the house to double and triple check appliances and electronics that I have convinced myself are fire hazards.  This fear is so real, I sleep with a retractable fire escape underneath my bed.

Well, last Wednesday night, I came face to face with my biggest fear. Right inside my house.  And it came from the most unlikely of suspects.

Kevin smokes, but doesn't smoke inside the house.  He does, however, have a few lighters that lay around- on the dining room table, on the kitchen counter, etc. It was one such lighter sitting on our kitchen counter that did something I didn't know was possible.

To celebrate Burger Week, we had gone to the Briarpatch for dinner.  We arrived home shortly after 8pm and started settling in.  Kevin went out to the front porch to smoke.  I sat down on the couch with dogs on the opposite side of the house.  We had been home roughly ten minutes. That's when I heard it.

I heard a loud pop, a sort of "explosion".  It was so loud that our dog Yogi jumped off the couch terrified.  Ellie immediately started barking because she knew something was wrong too.  I turned to my left and instantly saw the glow of fire coming from the kitchen.  And I could hear sizzling, burning.  I knew something in my house was on fire.

I ran into the kitchen and found this lighter transformed into a virtual blow torch.


Flames blasting from the top of the lighter were two feet high.  They were shooting straight up in the air so high that they had already start to burn the bottom of the cabinet mounted directly above that area of the countertop.

I grabbed the edge of the postcard the lighter was sitting on, threw it into the kitchen sink and doused the 2-foot-high flames with water.  It was absolutely terrifying and I have no idea what caused the a malfunction. But that "malfunction" could have been deadly.

If we had come home twenty minutes after we did, we would have come home to our house completely engulfed in flames.  The explosion and fire lasted only about 30 seconds from the time it happened until I was able to extinguish the fire in the sink.  However, in that thirty seconds, the flames from the lighter charred the underside of one of my kitchen cabinets and had already started to burn through.  Everything in that cabinet (which is where we keep all of our baking goods, pastas, etc) is completely flammable.  Also, in addition to the postcard the lighter was sitting on, there were other quickly flammable items sitting close by.

"Close" is the keyword in this entire situation.  This was an exceptionally and horrifying close call.

I didn't know cigarette lighters could combust spontaneously.  This one did. And, no, it hadn't been recently used.  It was just sitting on the counter, unattended, when something triggered a malfunction in its lighting mechanism.  That malfunction, that spark was strong enough to turn that lighter into a blow torch.  If I hadn't been at home, it would have "torched" my house.

I have tried to locate the manufacturer.  This particular brand of lighter, Ignitus, is made in China and is readily available at many gas stations around the town.  I have searched the internet and various social media platforms to try and find a way to contact the manufacturer, but every road has been a dead end.

I share this story today as a public service announcement. Use caution and do extensive product research when purchasing lighters.  I know you likely don't think that something like this would ever happen.  I certainly didn't think so until I saw it.  I realize that this was a freak accident, but it happened.  And it happened in my home, thankfully, while I was sitting just a few feet away. Otherwise, this story could have been a lot different.


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