How’s that for a title, eh?
First, I write this for any volunteers in-country or out-of-country using buta tanks; learn from my almost deathly mistake. Actually, I’m probably exaggerating a tiny bit. I don’t think I was ever at risk of dying, as I hear there’s supposedly an emergency shut-off valve inside every tank (which works, what, 80% of the time, right, cause everything is 80% right?). But it was scary all the same. So, here’s my story:
Oh wait, first things first. Buta Gaz is a tank of highly flammable butane gas used in cooking and heating. I have three tanks in my house. One for my shower to heat it, one for my oven, and one for my stove. It’s basically like a propane tank in the States. Like we’re always camping or something.
So, Buta is extremely dangerous, obviously. It’s actually more dangerous in terms of carbon monoxide poisoning, and I’ve recently taken my carbon monoxide detector into my shower with me, especially after I heard a family of five Moroccans just died in my old neighborhood here in town when they didn’t realize their tank was leaking gas.
That said, I have been extra careful about making sure my tanks were regularly turned off, that the tubing connecting the tank to the stove, etc. was properly connected. I mean, we received proper training on how to do all of that. Except one little problem….
So, I was cooking a cheesy potato soup (which turned out to be delicious by the way) and decided some chubz (bread) would go nicely with it, but I wanted to warm the bread up a little. I threw it on the oven, lit it up, and went for it. All seemed well. What I didn’t realize was that I had previously shoved the oven up against the wall one time I was closing the doors to the oven. That sandwiched the plastic piping between the hot metal oven and the freezing cold, concrete wall. Hot ovens melt plastic. Plastic carries gas. Gas = flammable. Flames in the oven. Bad combination.
So, I’m standing right next to my oven, which is on the floor, and I hear it suddenly making this strange noise. I look down and think, “Why is my bread making a noise like it’s melting or something?” I open up the door to the oven to check it all out, pull the bread out. No, it’s not melting. Hmm. Oh well. Back to cooking soup.
Bam! A flame explodes to my right side, and I jump back, eyes wide open. I immediately think, “There is fire pouring out of the back of my oven. My buta gaz tank is about to explode. This is it. I’m going to die, but my life is not flashing before me; why not? Once that tank explodes, the tank it’s right next to will probably explode as well.” So, I just freeze up watching fire climbing up my wall. Then I think, “Wait, no, I can just turn off the buta gaz tank. I should do that instead of dying.”
I lean down, twist it off waiting for it to explode. The gas stops flowing through the piping, but there’s still fire all over my wall. I pull the oven back from the wall carefully and start beating it (I’m not sure why I thought beating it would work), and then the fire finally goes out. I twist the tank again. And again. I’m in awe that it’s not exploded, and now that survival mode has turned off, I start shaking.
On the upside, my soup was now finished (nice timing, soup). I poured in a bowl, still shaking, and text one of my friends, because I needed someone else to know that I was alive, just in case I was actually not alive but was now a ghost reliving this moment eternally.
Turned out I was alive. All is well now except for a hole in my tubing where it melted (do not ever let your “tiyu” tubing touch the hot, metal oven). I’m about to go buy new tubing now, and I won’t let that mistake happen again. Props to learning from your mistakes without having to die first. Hopefully, other volunteers can learn from this as well.