Strawberry Pop-Tarts Toaster Fire

In 1993, an intrepid, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist named Dave Barry wrote an article entitled “The Great Strawberry Pop-Tart Fire” for the Miami Herald. He was tipped off about a house fire in Dover, Ohio where fire investigators, after conducting an experiment, concluded that the blaze was caused by a toaster that failed to eject the victim’s wholesome breakfast of strawberry flavored Pop-Tarts. One of the investigators described that “strawberry Pop-Tarts, when left in a toaster that doesn’t pop up, will send flames ‘like a blowtorch’ up to three feet high.”

Barry decided to conduct the experiment himself and was able to back up the fire investigator’s claims. It’s been nearly 20 years since Barry’s column was published and strawberry Pop-Tarts are still being trapped in toasters and used for the amusement of science (and by science, I mean fire) lovers across the globe. And now, with a little guidance, you too can enjoy setting your toaster and breakfast aflame. For science.

Summon the Pastries

Now, be prepared to gather the necessary materials for this experiment. After all, science is complicated.

You will need (prepare yourself): a toaster and a box of strawberry flavored Pop-Tarts. Unfrosted is recommended, but frosted will work as well. And I mean Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts, not any sort of off-brand toaster pastries. According to the fire investigator in Ohio, generic pastries produced a less “impressive” result, a disconcerting thought.

What ingredient(s) could cause Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts to out-perform its generic competitors when used to set a toaster fire? A question for the ages.

Safety First

In addition to the toaster and pastries, you will need to practice common sense by having a fire extinguisher on site. Perform the experiment in an open location, away from anything flammable, preferably concrete. If you live up north, a nice snow patch would do the trick as well (having friends throw large amounts of snow on the toaster would work as a backup plan in case the fire extinguisher malfunctioned). And for the worriers out there, grab some baking soda as an additional backup.

Preparation and Execution

You’ll need to rig the toaster in order for it to not pop up. Whether you wire it, tape it, or jam it, just keep that lever down. Once you’ve set your environment up, gathered the locals (perhaps they’ll bring hot dogs to roast over the fire), and are satisfied with your setup, it’s time to begin the show.

Place your sugary victims carefully into the toaster and once everyone is at a safe distance, plug it in. The process can take anywhere between 4 and 10 minutes, but once the smoke starts to billow, and that first flame peeks, keep an eye on it. The flames will not take long to form a complete blaze and may jump up and down. Once the flames are up (or you hear the toaster shorting out), unplug it immediately and get the fire extinguisher, snow, or baking soda ready for action. The flames will slowly recede back into the toaster, but use your fire fighting tools to extinguish it nonetheless (after the locals have used it to cook their dinner, of course).

And there you have it, you’ve successfully turned a toaster into a very effective blowtorch using strawberry Pop-Tarts. The experiment will work fine with other flavors of Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts, but it’s tradition to honor the flavor featured in Dave Barry’s column.

Now that you’ve seen the power of Pop-Tarts, you’ll probably keep a closer eye on your toaster the next time you decide to warm some up for breakfast.

Image Source: TheSkillotron’s “Pop Tarts + Toaster = Fire?” video on YouTube