My soon-to-be wife and I arrived in San Diego after I rescued her from Texas. I was a lowly E-4 in the US Navy. We had perhaps $500 between us. We stayed at a cheap hotel while she searched for an apartment and I checked into my new squadron.

Money would be very tight for a while. Always the fiscally responsible one, she found a fairly decent apartment we could afford on my meager earnings. They arranged for the cleaning lady to go through the apartment so we could move in ASAP.

We moved everything we owned into the apartment in about 15 minutes. I went out to get some groceries while she found places to store my junk. We had known each other for many years, but we had lost touch for the last 3. I ran into her in Texas and convinced her to follow me to California. It was all very fast and very exciting for me.

I spent the last $80 we had on a tank of gas and groceries. She was done when I returned, so I turned the fridge on and filled it with a few bags of food.

We sat in the living room on the cheap hotel-quality furnished sofa and talked. I kept hearing popping noises, so I began to investigate where the noises were coming from. It turned out to be the refrigerator.

I opened up the door to be greeted by thick acrid smoke and huge rolling flames. I slammed the door shut, told my wife to go get the landlord, then ran to find the circuit breaker. When she came back with the sleepy manager, I explained what happened. He calmly walked over to the fridge and re-opened the door. Even more smoke and flames greeted him. He turned to me and said, "Your fridge is on fire."

He kept looking at the burning interior until I knocked his hand aside and closed the door. He decided to go call the building owner.

The building owner drove over from his estate (he owned a lot of rental property). When he entered the kitchen, he also opened the door. Yet more oily smoke rolled out. At this point my opinion of Californians was steadily declining at a rapid pace. I pushed the door closed and told him to go get a dolly. We wheeled the fridge out into the center courtyard while my wife worked on getting the burning plastic stench from the apartment.

The next day, they opened the door again. The fire had finally burned itself out. The entire inside of the fridge was melted into an eerie landscape of cooked food and melted plastic. Apparently, the cleaning woman used a lot of water, soap and flammable cleaners inside the fridge, especially around the light switch. The insulation by the switch was soaked, and when I switched on the fridge, it began to heat up and short out.

They ended up moving us to a different apartment because we couldn't get rid of the burning plastic smell. They also replaced the groceries. To this day I squint when I open the refrigerator door, just in case I'm greeted by a giant fireball again.