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Macaroni and Cheese Evacuated a State Capitol Building This Morning

But the issue of microwave evacuations is nothing new. In 2007, Seattle toyed with the idea of banning microwaveable popcorn from all city buildings because the issue of “burning kernels” had caused a dozen evacuations in the span of three years.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US
Photo via Flickr user DrWurm

Does it smell weird in here? No? Nevermind.

No, wait. Wait a second. It definitely smells smoky, don't you think?

Oh god, the fire alarm's going off. We're moments away from Backdraft status. Let's get the hell out of here!

Ah, crap. Someone just left a bag of popcorn in the microwave again. Let's open the windows and head back to our desks.

We have all been privy to the survivalist fear that erupts when an entire building full of people supposes itself to be caught on fear. And similarly, we have all likely familiarized ourselves with the characteristic smell of blackening food left to wither in the microwave.


Thus was the case this morning, when the Iowa Capitol was hastily evacuated as it filled with smoke. Lawmakers fled to safety. Officials prepared to say their final goodbyes to their unknowing children. Epitaph ideas were texted to friends and lovers.

And then, the culprit: a bowl of Easy Mac, charred to oblivion.

Burnt 'Easy Mac' food causes emergency evacuation of Iowa Capitol. No one hurt. — William Petroski (@WilliamPetroski) April 27, 2015

According to the Des Moines Register, Secretary of the Senate Michael Marshall "said he hoped he would not need to send out a memo telling people to be more careful when cooking their lunch in the microwave." He added that the ensuing sirens resulting from the careless mac attack should ostensibly serve as a deterrent to watch one's lunch when it's spinning around in a radar range.

But the issue of microwave evacuations is nothing new, of course. In 2007, Seattle toyed with the idea of banning microwaveable popcorn from all city buildings because the issue of "burning kernels" had caused a dozen evacuations in the span of three years. At the time, Pedro Vasquez, the city's fleets and facilities director, told local news station KIRO that productivity was being compromised because "you end up with 200, 300, 400 people that end up having to be evacuated from their workspace for 40 minutes on average at a time." He also told the Seattle Times, "This is an issue that is causing a real impact to us."

UCH Insider, the official publication of the University of Colorado Hospital, issued a report in 2008 about the annoying prevalence of microwave fires, citing two incidents in the facility in a single month. In the first harrowing incident, "plumes of smoke from a smoldering burrito left in the microwave too long triggered smoke detectors and staff calls to 911." Patients were herded behind fire doors in fears that they were moments away from perishing in a deadly inferno. But nope, just some beans and cheese in a tortilla.

Just a week later, pizza led to a second summoning of the local fire department to the same hospital. All of this was particularly upsetting because the hospital had long had a ban on microwave popcorn with the aim of preventing this particular type of incident.

Even in Iowa specifically, this isn't the first kerfuffle between burnt food and politicians. In 2011, a mischievous bag of overheated popcorn required the evacuation of the Iowa State Historical Building where Mitt Romney was making an appearance for his pending presidential campaign.

Come on, guys. If we're old enough and smart enough to make laws that affect the lives of thousands of millions of people, we should know not to stick a plate of food into a device that makes it heat up rapidly and then walk away.