How to Prevent a Kitchen Fire
For your safety, your home and the people around you, know what to do next time you experience a stovetop fire.
As everyone knows, to me, cooking is a therapeutic, soothing hobby that I can always count on to give me a breath of fresh air and internal peace. Cooking doesn't normally present a lot of danger. You might nick your finger while chopping vegetables or manage to burn a pan of roasting potatoes, but in terms of actual danger to ourselves or our homes, not so much. Except for grease fires. Do you know what to do if your cooking oil catches fire? Unattended cooking causes nearly 90 percent of all kitchen fires. If you’re frying, grilling, or broiling food, don’t leave the kitchen even for a minute. If you’re cooking foods for a longer time—such as simmering, baking, or roasting—set a kitchen timer and pop in the kitchen often. Never leave the house when your stove or oven are on.
Wear clothes close to your body. If your clothes are long and loose, they can easily catch fire on your stove burners. Wear short sleeves or roll up your sleeves before cooking. If you have long hair, tie it back as well. Make it free and clean. If an item can catch fire, move it away from your stove. That includes towels, potholders, wooden utensils, food boxes, and curtains. Also, clean your stovetop, burners, and oven often to prevent grease buildup. Keep kids and pets at a distance. Kids should stay at least three feet away from the stove for their own safety. Pets should be away from cooking surfaces and countertops so they don’t get burned or push items on to the burners.
Hopefully you never have to deal with a grease fire, but if it happens, how you handle it is important. A grease fire isn't like a regular fire, and trying to put it out the same way can make it worse.Grease fires are caused by letting oil get too hot, so the best way to prevent them is to never leave your kitchen unattended. A grease fire happens when your cooking oil becomes too hot. When heating, oils first start to boil, then they'll start smoking, and then they'll catch on fire. Most vegetable oils have a smoking point around 230°C, while animal fats like lard or goose fat will start smoking around 190°C. When your pan catches fire, you don't want to burn yourself with scorching hot handles or splashing oil, so don't try to move it or pick it up. Also, do NOT try to extinguish it with water. You'll just spread the fire across your kitchen. Just turn off the stove immediately and put a heavy metal lid on it. Cutting off the heat and the oxygen should put out the fire pretty fast. Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
Do take note of the following when you are cooking:
Keep an eye on the oil as it's heating. If you see wisps of smoke or smell something acrid, immediately turn down the heat or remove the pot from the burner completely. The oil won't immediately catch fire once it starts smoking, but smoke is a danger sign that it's well on its way to getting there.
If the worst happens and your oil does catch on fire, do the following:
Turn the Heat Off - Don't try to move the pot. You might accidentally splash yourself or your kitchen with burning oil. And that would be bad. Cover the Pot with a Metal Lid - Fire cannot exist in the absence of oxygen. With the lid on (and the heat off), the fire should quickly consume all the oxygen and put itself out. Use a metal lid since glass will shatter. Pour on Baking Soda - Baking soda will extinguish grease fires, but only if they're small. It takes a lot of baking soda to do the job. Spray the Pot with a Class B Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher - This is your last resort, as fire extinguishers will contaminate your kitchen. Still, it's better than the alternative if the fire is getting out of control. Get Out and Call your national emergency number - If the fire does break out of control, don't try to be a hero. Get out and find a phone to call the emergency number.
Whatever you do, DO NOT do the following:
• Do Not Use Water - Pouring water can cause the oil to splash and spread the fire. The vaporizing water can also carry grease particles in it, also spreading the fire. Do Not Move the Pot or Carry It Outside - Throwing the pot outside might seem logical in the frenzy of the moment. But trying to move the pot might splash burning oil on you, your home, and anything outside. Do Not Throw Any Other Baking Product On the Fire - Flour might look like baking soda, but it won't react the same. Only baking soda can help put out a grease fire.
Other Kitchen Fires what to do:
Oven, Microwave, and Electrical Fires
Fires can happen anywhere in the kitchen — near an electrical outlet, in the microwave, or in the stove. Here are some tips to help you know what to do in case of any of these kitchen fires:
- Oven fires. Immediately close the oven door and turn it off. If the fire doesn’t go out right away, call the fire department. Have the oven inspected and repaired before you use it again.
- Microwave fires. Close the microwave door and keep it closed. Turn the microwave off and unplug it if you can do so safely. Leave it closed and don't use it again until you can have the appliance checked out by a technician.
- Electrical fires. Prevent electrical fires by not overloading your electrical outlets with appliances. If a fire starts, use a fire extinguisher; never douse it with water. Always call the fire department for an electrical fire, even if you have already put it out with the fire extinguisher.
Using a Fire Extinguisher on Kitchen Fire
Every kitchen should be equipped with a fire extinguisher. Get one that's labeled as safe to use on any kind of fire, and keep it within easy reach. If a fire starts, you won't have time to stop and read the directions. Become familiar with these tips to understand how to use a fire extinguisher on a small kitchen fire:
- First, remove the pin from the fire extinguisher — it won't work if you don't.
- Point the extinguisher toward the base of the fire, not the top of the flames.
- Holding it by the handle, press down on the lever on the fire extinguisher; just let go when you want to stop.
- Spray horizontally back and forth across the fire until it's extinguished, remembering to aim low.
Baking soda is also an important ingredient in any kitchen, and not just for baking cookies. If a fire breaks out on an electric stovetop or if you don’t have anything available to smother a grease fire, grab a box of baking soda and pour it generously on the flames. Baking soda will help to extinguish a small fire, but you may need several boxes of it. Never use flour to put out a fire, as it can make the flames worse.
When to Call the Fire Department for a Kitchen Fire
So when should you Call your national emergency number , and when should you try to fight a fire yourself? Never hesitate to call the fire department. But if it's a small, contained fire, you should follow the above tips to try to extinguish it while waiting for help to arrive.
You should also be sure to get your family out of the house, and if the flames rise and spread, you should get out, too. Kitchen fires that start small and can be quickly contained or extinguished are one thing, but roaring fires aren't something you should attempt to tackle. Remember safety first: Keep yourself and your family protected, and call for help.
Phew, now that we're clear on all of that, hopefully you'll never be in a situation where you have to actually use this advice. Be safe, fellow cooks!