Kitchens are a natural place for fires to start: you are already working with open flames or very high heat. Take extra precautions to prevent fires.
Preventing kitchen fires
The number one cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking. When cooking anything on top of the stove, or in the oven, stay with it. For long-cooking dishes, plan activities you can do in the kitchen, such as cleaning or preparing other dishes. If "kitchen activities" don't come to mind, consider reading, writing, chatting with family or friends, or even reading a story to the kids. All of these can keep you happily and productively occupied while keeping an eye on what is being cooked.
If you cannot or don't want to stay in the kitchen:
- Check frequently on food that is cooking,
- Have a working smoke alarm installed where it can warn of potential fire.
- Keep a fire extinguisher within easy reach.
Kitchens can be very active places, especially when meals are being prepared. These basic tips can increase your safety:
- Wear short-sleeve, close fitting clothing when cooking. Loose clothing can more easily catch fire.
- Watch children closely in the kitchen. Teach them fire safety and proper handling of tools to prevent burns, cuts, or other injuries. Do this before you teach them to cook. Stay with children for every step as they are learning ot cook. Reinforce and praise their safety skills.
- Grease can accumulate quickly in the kitchen. Grease fires can quickly spread to the entire kitchen. Clean your cooking surfaces and counters frequently to prevent food and grease build-up. Ideally this should be done immediately after cooking, or during clean-up after each meal.
- Keep flammable materials, such as curtains, towels, pot holders, plastic or paper bags, away form cooking surfaces.
- Store all solvents and flammable cleaners well away from all heat sources. Never keep gasoline or kerosene in the house, especially not in the kitchen.
- While cooking, make sure pan handles are turned away from the front of the stove so that no one will accidentally bump them. Boiling water or hot grease thrown from a jostled pan can cause severe burns. Keep the area in front of the stove clear and calm while cooking.
Putting out a fire
Even with the greatest care, you may someday have to put out a kitchen fire.
First, assess the danger. If the fire has spread beyond the oven or a pan, call the fire department right away. In most locations, you can call 911 and they will transfer you to the needed service.
If the fire is small and contained, as in food flaming in a pan, these tips may help:
- Slide a pan lid over a grease or oil fire to smother flames. Turn off the heat. Watch carefully to make sure the fire is not spreading somewhere unexpected. Leave the lid in place until it cools. Once the fire is completely out and everything is cool, thoroughly clean everything that was involved in the fire, especially the stove top or oven. If the flame got outside of a pan, you will need to decide whether there was any damage that must be repaired before you can cook again. Caution: Never attempt to carry a flaming pan outside. Doing this increases your risk of spreading the fire and of being burned.
- Keep a large box of baking soda on hand. Aside from its other uses, you can pour baking soda over most small food fires to extinguish the flames.
- Never use water or flour to put out fires. Water added to a grease fire reacts violently, sending hot grease everywhere. This spreads the fire and increases your chance of being burned. Flour can have a similar effect. Water poured on flames can also get into electrical circuits in the stove or oven, which can complicate the situation and increase the danger.
- If a fire occurs in your oven, keep the door shut and turn off the heat. This will usually smother the flames without further risk.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. There are several types of extinguishers, each designed for use with specific types of fire. Make sure you have the right kind; one that can put out grease-based fires most often found in kitchens. Make sure you know how to use the extinguisher. Check periodically to ensure that it is in proper working order.