A lifelong passion for cooking went up in smoke Wednesday night with a bag of frozen french fries.
Eilene Lucas, 74, said she was preparing dinner for her husband Bill before the television show “Survivor” started at 7 p.m. when an untended pot of oil caught fire and quickly spread to the rest of the kitchen.
Performing better than any reality show contestant, the Lucases quickly escaped the smoke-filled home, in the 500 block of East Dura Circle, and waited for firefighters to arrive.
The couple was briefly hospitalized for smoke inhalation and are now recovering at a local hotel. They plan to return home once the smell of smoke clears.
A lifelong cook, Eilene said she has never had a major cooking mishap before.
“I love to cook,” she said. “It is my expression of love.”
When Bill, her husband of more than 50 years, asked if she would cook hamburgers and fries, Eilene said she went to work warming up the grill and a pot of oil.
Leaving the oil on the stove, Eilene went outside to turn on the patio grill, but got a pair of pliers to turn the grill on, she heard Bill hollering inside the home.
“He said, ‘Fire! Fire!’ she said. “When I went in the kitchen I could not believe my eyes — I was in shock.”
The pot of oil had fueled a fire spreading quickly to overhead cabinets and a collection of decorative roosters. The range hood was melting onto the stove and the smell was sickening, Eilene said.
“My mind was racing — what should I do?” she said. “The fire was so high, I said, ‘I am calling the fire department; I am not going to try and fight it.’ I knew I was just going to make it worse.”
Eilene said she turned the stove off and helped Bill out.
Fire Chief Marty deMasi and Battalion Chief Dan Bramble said the Lucases did the right thing.
“It was very good that instead of trying to put out the fire they got out,” Bramble said.
Turning the stove off and calling for help are the best things to do in a grease fire. Never throw water on a grease fire as it could explode, deMasi said.
If you catch the fire early enough, a pot lid is a great way to smother it.
More than a dozen Payson firefighters responded to the Lucases’ hilltop home, snubbing the fire with an extinguisher.
Crews remained on scene several hours.
Bramble said the nearest fire hydrant was 1,100 feet away — far beyond the 500 feet required under the International Fire Code and National Fire Protection Association.
“When Payson North was (developed) in the late 1970s, they were not as concerned with those things then,” Bramble said.
The fire department would like to see the town add more than 200 fire hydrants around town, deMasi said.
The southeast part of town needs the most, at 75 hydrants, while the northwest and southwest, the least at 25 hydrants in each area.
deMasi said fire hydrants will likely only be added when there is a road, water, sewer or development project.