Something over-heated, short-circuited, over-heated some more and began making noises, smoking and flickering in what was the usually quiet niche where our refrigerator sat.
You never want to see orangey flickering UNDER your refrigerator in a dimly lit kitchen.
DH, who had already gone to bed, rose to the occasion, tossed kitty litter at the flames, pulled the refrigerator out of the niche, unplugged it, and even cut the water line to we could get the smoking hulk out of the kitchen.
By then I had called 911, and TWO fire companies responded, lights flashing (no sirens!), axes wielded and gas masks at the ready.
Their brawny "boys" manhandled the refrigerator over two thresholds, and laid it on its side on the porch. (No use charring the porch... although hearing the contents of a refrigerator being rotated 90 degrees is pretty freaky.)
They rotated it another 90 degrees so that they could tip rather than carry it the rest of the way off the porch. Who knew that you could "roll" a refrigerator?! End over end, no less!!
Its final resting pose was face up on the lawn in the dark.
There was fine soot, "particulate matter," EVERYWHERE. The fire fighters closed the hall doors as soon as they thought of it, which meant that there was less soot in the bedrooms and my "office."
I was surprised at how everything was "shaken" and not especially stirred or broken. I guess packaging is more resilient than I knew.
All the pink splatter came from a glass pitcher of fruit punch. THAT was distributed through both compartments by the miracle of entropy.
The unopened cranberry juice remained intact.
The produce, cheese and meat bins also survived.
There wasn't really any place to put it where it would "keep" until we had a new refrigerator.
After a few hours sleep, I called our insurance company, which had a "Disaster Recovery Services" company on the scene before lunch.
They duct taped and bubble wrapped the offending refrigerator which now lies "moldering" in one of the garage parking spaces. I am glad I won't be opening those doors again. EVER!
And today (4 days later), their crew finished up the TOTAL clean up of smoke and soot residue.
Every square inch of wall, floor, horizontal and vertical surface has been buffed, washed and/or polished.
Dry cleaners arrived to take away what needed more than wiping or vacuuming, like area rugs, the clothes we wore the night of the fire, and a hand knit sweater that was half blocked. Washing stuff with soot in it can apparently a) ruin your washing machine and/or b) permanently streak whatever you washed.
We only had inexpensive, minimal curtains, so those (and the smoke smell attached to them) went into the trash.
Over the next couple of days we'll be deciding about a replacement refrigerator, and whether to paint the walls and ceilings and whether to refinish or replace the wood floors.
I am grateful for our insurance benefits! And the terrific service we have gotten from all parties.
I am grateful I was still awake enough to discover the fire.
If I hadn't been, the smoke alarm DID go off... but after the fire department had been called and had already arrived. I'm sure the damage would have been worse.
But as a reminder: Do check that you HAVE smoke alarms and that the batteries/power supplies are working.