Make this your first – and possibly the most important – New Year’s Resolution: if you do not have an easily accessible fire extinguisher in your kitchen right now, either stop messing around online and head straight to the hardware store to buy one or click here to buy one online from Amazon and you can keep on browsing.

Better yet, buy two. Take one and mess around with it to make sure you know how it works. Because there’s not very much time to learn if anything ever catches fire in your house. And, as that homeowner’s insurance double-page ad in a recent New Yorker pointed out, 46% of all household fires start in the kitchen.

This one did. I’ll tell you the story, but first a spoiler alert: we are all fine, and the fire was contained to the inside of the oven, which made it through unscathed. But it was pretty freaking scary. And happened really fast.

One Sunday morning at the far beginning of this holiday season, Kid Two asked for nachos for breakfast. Sounded quite reasonable and delicious to me. But instead of popping an assembled plate in the microwave, like any reasonable person would do, I decided to channel Alton Brown and make them in the oven. Cookie sheet, parchment paper, chips, shredded cheese – all nice and tidy and popped under the broiler. Jalapeño peppers and salsa waiting at the table.

Just to warn you: NEVER put parchment paper under the broiler. It is flammable above 450 degrees, as the fireman explained me later. And Alton Brown never put parchment paper under the broiler, as Kid Two explained to me later.

But this was my mistake to make. It didn’t take long for the burning smell to escape. And flames licked out the second I opened the oven door to take out the tray.

I slammed the oven door shut and stared at Kid Two. “It’s on fire!”

Calmly, he replied, pointing under the sink, “Don’t we have one of those extinguisher things under there?”

Looking at the growing flame in the oven and starting to feeling panicked, I grabbed the extinguisher, pulled the pin, stared at it for a second, and handed it to him. I said something along the lines of, “You try to put it out and I’ll call the fire department, just in case.” Yes, I grabbed the dog and called 911 while Kid Two tried to figure out how to use the fire extinguisher.

I don’t think calling 911 was overreacting. See, about 5 years ago a neighbor’s house burned almost completely down. They weren’t home when it started; there was evidently a short in one of the walls that started the fire. Firefighters showed up pretty quickly, but it got out of control really fast. That’s always what you hear, it happens really fast. I took a picture, and this is the picture that popped in my mind when I saw the flames in my oven:

Just about this time LL called downstairs, asking what was burning. He wasn’t alarmed; it’s not an uncommon question. The way the air flows through the house, the smell from even a slight char on the edge of a piece of toast makes it up into our room in pretty short order. But there was one more awkward variable here; he had had foot surgery the previous week and was barely hobbling around. And my answer was certainly not was he expected on a fine Sunday morning, “I started a fire in the stove and am calling 911. Can you get downstairs by yourself?”

He grabbed those crutches and hobbled down the stairs in record time. Kid Two gave the fire a first squirt, then LL took over, emptying the container onto the bright hot yellow flame. The lady on 911 kept asking me if everyone was out of the house yet. Three minutes later, when the fire truck showed up, the fire was out and we were all out of the house. It was filled with haze and an acrid smell. Neither the smoke detector nor the carbon monoxide detecter ever went off.

And the firefighters were amazing. They didn’t treat me like an idiot for putting parchment paper under the broiler, and they took the whole situation very seriously, using air quality detectors to make sure the house was safe to enter and setting up big industrial fans to suck out all the smell and whatever other particles they could. They explained there probably wasn’t any smoke, and that the spray from the extinguisher wouldn’t have set off the smoke alarm. And they were obviously happy we were all ok.

Then I went into the house and was faced with this:

and this:

and this:

Yowzee. The extinguisher was filled with a mixture of mica and baking soda, and traveled through the house in the same way our eau de skunk spread over the summer. Friends came over, and the bulk of it was done 7 hours later. But it was two weeks before we got everything cleaned up for good. It was a LOT of cleaning.

We were lucky, but we were also prepared. Please make your own luck this year, and check your smoke detector batteries and your fire extinguisher supply.