Preventing Kitchen Fires When Cooking

When it comes to fires, the most at-risk area of your home is the kitchen. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 49 percent of all house fires involve cooking equipment.

That’s why, for this year’s Fire Prevention Week, the NFPA announced that the theme is Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen.

“Cooking continues to be a major contributor to the home fire problem,” Lorraine Carli, NFPA Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy, said in a press release. “The good news is that the vast majority of these fires are highly preventable. This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign works to better educate the public about where potential cooking hazards exist and basic but critical ways to prevent them.”

The restoration and prevention specialists at Paul Davis of Northern Indiana agree with this sentiment, including Steve Leffers, an associate at Paul Davis who is certified in fire and smoke restoration.

“I've been at Paul Davis for 27 years,” he said, “and I would say that's got to be the most common origin.”

Fire Safety Concerns in the Kitchen

While fires can occur anywhere in your home for a variety of reasons, most fires in the kitchen ignite due to user error. That is, most start because the stove or oven is left unattended.

“In kitchen-related fires, a lot of them are attributed to cooking situations and negligence,” Leffers said.

Leffers once was called to fire damage at a home where a man took his dog for a long walk in the midst of frying eggs on a skillet. While that may be an extreme example, any time you leave cooking food unattended, you could be at risk for a fire.

Occasionally, electronic appliances such as an oven, microwave or toaster oven can malfunction and cause a fire, but that’s much less common.

How to Help Prevent Kitchen Fires

First and foremost, whenever you’re cooking, never leave your stove or oven unattended. It may seem innocent to watch television for a few minutes in the other room while a pan is heating up, but a flame can spark at any moment.

It’s also important to make sure flammable cooking items, such as food utensils, packaging, oven mitts, etc. are kept several feet away from a stove top. Also, never use cooking spray when a pan is already over an open flame.

If you’ve consumed alcohol or feel tired, using an oven or stove may be ill-advised.

Lastly, it’s recommended that you have at least one fire extinguisher on hand in the kitchen.

Be Wary of Grease Fires

When dealing with kitchen fires, it’s important to be especially careful when cooking grease-heavy items or using lots of oil, because grease fires are extremely dangerous.

“They can be extraordinary, especially around Thanksgiving,” Leffers said. “That's when we get most of those because somebody is trying to do a deep-fried turkey.”

The issue is that grease fires cannot be put out with water. In fact, water will only intensify the flames.

Instead, grease fires must be smothered and starved of oxygen. Typically, the best and most convenient items to use are a pan lid or cooking sheet. Then turn off the oven and/or stove. Salt or baking soda can be used to smother small grease fires but be wary of using other items, as their chemical makeup may intensify the fire.

As a last resort, grab your fire extinguisher. If that doesn’t work, dial 911 and exit your home immediately.

In Need of a Fire Restoration Expert?

The aftermath of a house or building fire is a stressful time. Restoration specialists like Steve Leffers at Paul Davis of Northeast Indiana will be there for you after a fire. Their experts at dealing with insurance companies and know exactly what to do to restore your home back to its previous state.

For more information, call us at 260-436-7510.