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Utah County fire sparks kitchen safety reminder ahead of Thanksgiving

Posted at 5:51 PM, Nov 19, 2023

AMERICAN FORK, Utah — Doorbell camera video shows the moments the Walstad family had to leave their home in American Fork behind because of a growing kitchen fire.

"We had nothing. I didn't even have shoes on, I didn't have a coat, I just grabbed my kid, my dog, and he had our other kid, and I didn't care about anything else — I just wanted us to be safe," said Maddie Walstad. "We waited for the fire department to come. I just watched smoke come out of our window."

The Walstads were making dinner on Tuesday when the fire started in their oven while it was preheating without any food inside.

"I went and looked in the oven and I just saw smoke coming out of it," Tanner Walstad recalled. "I immediately turned the oven off opened this window back here and looked in the oven, didn't see anything, but I saw a flame, so I got on my hands and knees and looked under that drawer and saw a fireball just burning our floor."

At one point during the beginning of the fire, Tanner and his neighbor re-entered the home to try to do what they could to stop the fire, but Tanner says the 911 dispatcher told them to get out.

"They saved my life, I think," Tanner said. "My neighbor and I would've been stuck in here after inhaling all that smoke."

The damage caused by the flames and smoke has left the Walstads unable to live in their home for the foreseeable future — right before the holidays — as they say the entire main floor has to be rebuilt and other parts of the home require repair as well.

"All our boys' toys and books, pretty much everything they own... lost," Maddie said. "I just hope our boys can have a somewhat normal Christmas. Obviously it won't be in our home, but we still have family."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but as people spend more time baking and cooking ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, the American Fork Fire Department and the Walstads want everyone to practice kitchen fire safety.

"Anything that's cooking at high temperatures throughout this holiday season, it has to be monitored 24/7," said Jonah Burton with American Fork Fire and Rescue. "If something is on, hot, cooking, keep things like towels, oven mitts, packing materials from things you're cooking far away from the oven or stovetop. Heat can transfer once it gets hot enough and those things can cause things to catch on fire."

The Walstads encourage people to have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it, as well as know when it's time to leave in an emergency situation.

"Don't try to be the hero. It's OK to ask for help, it's OK to be dramatic if it seems a little dramatic, if it's going to save your life and your family," Tanner said. "Things are replaceable, but lives aren't."

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the Walstads' recovery.

For more information on cooking fire safety, you can visit the National Fire Protection Association's website.