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Emergency Fires

  • Preventing and Extinguishing Kitchen Fires

    Preventing and Extinguishing Kitchen Fires

    Could simply cooking dinner catch your home on fire?

    The fact is, 43% of all home fires begin in the kitchen. In 2011, there were 156,300 kitchen-based fires reported in the United States, causing 470 deaths, 5,390 injuries, and a billion dollars in property damage. This is not a statistic that anyone wants to be included in, so what can you do to avoid burning more than the roast or the toast?

    Types of Kitchen Fires

    Kitchen fires fall into three general categories:

    • Oil or grease fires (aka pan fires)
    • Electrical and appliance fires
    • Fires caused by flammable items being too close to a heat source


    Preventing Kitchen Fires

    Most kitchen fires can be prevented with careful attention to a few simple precautions. Here are a few tips for preventing each type of fire.

    Oil or grease fires

    • Never put hot grease in a garbage can. Keep a metal or glass container near your stove to pour used drippings or grease in to cool before throwing it away.
    • Do not overheat any fat or oil for frying. Use a thermometer to gauge the temperature. Also, it’s helpful to know the smoke point and flashpoint of the oil you’re using, as they differ.

    Electrical and appliance fires

    • Do not use extension cords for appliances—toasters, toaster ovens, microwaves, mixers, etc. They are not always as safe as plugging the actual cord into a proper outlet, and may not be equipped to carry the voltage your appliance requires.
    • Clean your toaster regularly, being sure to get old, dry bread crumbs out. Many toasters have a slip-out tray underneath to catch these—but also turn the toaster upside down to be sure you get as many out as you can.

    Flammable object fires

    • Wear clothing and sleeves that are close fitting when cooking. It’s too easy for loose clothing to drift close to a burner and ignite. Roll or push sleeves up when possible.
    • If you have frayed or worn appliance cords or plugs, have them replaced.
    • Keep small appliances such as toasters and mixers unplugged when not in use.
    • Keep your stovetop and counter clean of grease, food, and clutter. Keep spray cans such as vegetable baking spray and air freshener safely away from the cooking area.
    • Keep flammable objects—hot pads, mitts, towels, dishcloths, aprons, recipe books or cards, and paper towels—away from heat sources.

    Other tips for preventing kitchen fires

    • Stay in the kitchen while food is cooking! Make it a practice to turn off all burners if you have to leave the kitchen even for a “second.”
    • When baking, use a timer; it’s easy to forget that sheet of cookies when you’ve been baking several or multitasking.
    • Keep small children away from the stove and oven when anything is cooking. Always turn pot handles so that they don’t extend out where little ones can grab them and pull hot foods down on themselves. Some burner controls, especially those on the front of the stove, can be secured so that small hands can’t turn them on. (Check with your hardware store.)


    Extinguishing Kitchen Fires

    Oil and Grease Fires

    • Put a lid (or an upside down pan) over the pan to smother the fire and deprive it of oxygen. Turn off the heat source.

    - If that doesn’t do the trick, use a dry chemical fire extinguisher (not a water-based one).

    -  If you don’t have an extinguisher, tear the top off a box of baking soda and carefully dump the contents on the fire. Salt also works. DO NOT substitute flour, sugar, or  baking powder! They can explode and make the fire much worse. According to the Ohio Fire Safety Board, one cup of flour or sugar potentially has the explosive  power of two sticks of dynamite!

    • Never put water on a grease or oil fire—it will splatter and spread.
    • Don’t run with a burning pan; there’s too much danger of dripping and spreading the fire or burning yourself.
    • If you can’t put out the fire very quickly, yell and alert other people in the house to get out. Be sure you have an unobstructed path to an exit. Get out first, then call 911 if necessary.

    Electrical and appliance fires

    • If your oven—or something in it, such as the element—catches fire, close the oven door and turn off the heat source. If it doesn’t go out in a short time, use a dry chemical fire extinguisher on it, or just call 911. Do not use water.
    • If a fire erupts in your microwave, keep the oven door shut and turn off the microwave. Unplug it—but only if you can do so safely.
    • Never blow on flames or fan them with a towel or apron! That feeds oxygen to the fire, makes it worse, and can cause it to spread.
    • If an appliance has caused a fire or burned at all because of a fire, replace it. Do not try to use it again.

    DO NOT immerse a burning appliance in water! Use a dry chemical fire extinguisher, or get out of the house and call 911. If you safely can, unplug the appliance or turn off the breaker that cuts all power to the kitchen.

    Flammable Object Fires

    • If a small object such as a hot pad or a dishcloth catches fire, you can use a pair of tongs to drop it into the sink and douse it with water. If it’s a larger object such as a tablecloth, use a fire extinguisher.
    • If a person’s clothing catches fire, employ the “stop, drop and roll” technique. You may be able to smother the fire with a fire blanket, a rug, a heavy towel or coat. Douse it with water. Call 911.
    • Know how to use your fire extinguisher and fire blanket ahead of time. Study manufacturer’s instructions. A fire blanket is a safety device, usually made of fiberglass or other synthetic material, used to extinguish small fires such as pan fires by smothering the fire and depriving it of oxygen. Keep one in a handy place in the kitchen. Take a moment to watch this short video:

    Though most kitchen fires are preventable, when they do happen we can be prepared by having a good supply of baking soda on hand for pan fires, by having a kitchen-sized fire extinguisher and knowing how to use it, by having a fire blanket on hand to smother difficult fires, and by keeping [BurnFree Pain Relieving Gel] on hand for minor burns.

    From your experience, what other tips on kitchen fires would you offer?








  • Emergency Fire Safety


    The following information is taken from http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/statistics/national/

    A fire can engulf a structure in a matter of minutes. Understanding the basic characteristics of fire and learning the proper safety practices can be the key to surviving a house or building fire.


    Install smoke detectors.

    Check them once a month and change the batteries at least once a year.

    Develop and practice an escape plan. Make sure all family members know what to do in a fire.

    • Draw a floor plan with at least two ways of escaping every room. Choose a safe meeting place outside the house.
    • Practice alerting other household members. It is a good idea to keep a bell and a flashlight in each bedroom for this purpose.
    • Practice safely evacuating the building blindfolded. In a real fire situation, the amount of smoke generated by a fire will most likely make it impossible to see.
    • Practice staying low to the ground when escaping.
    • Feel all doors before opening them. If the door is hot, get out another way.
    • Learn to stop, drop to the ground, and roll if clothes catch fire.


    Get out as quickly and as safely as possible.

    Use the stairs to escape.

    When evacuating, stay low to the ground.

    If possible, cover mouth with a cloth to avoid inhaling smoke and gases.

    Close doors in each room after escaping to delay the spread of the fire.

    If in a room with a closed door:

    • If smoke is pouring in around the bottom of the door or it feels hot, keep the door closed.
    • Open a window to escape or for fresh air while awaiting rescue.
    • If there is no smoke at the bottom or top and the door is not hot, then open the door slowly.
    • If there is too much smoke or fire in the hall, slam the door shut.
    • Call the fire department from a location outside the house.


    Give first aid where appropriate. Seriously injured or burned victims should be transported to professional medical help immediately.

    Stay out of damaged buildings.

    Return home only when local fire authorities say it is safe.

    Look for structural damage.

    Discard food that has been exposed to heat, smoke, or soot.

    Contact your insurance agent.

    Don't discard damaged goods until after an inventory has been taken. Save receipts for money relating to fire loss.

    Post emergency numbers near telephones.

    However, be aware that if a fire threatens your home, you should not place the call to your emergency services from inside the home. It is better to get out first and place the call from somewhere else.

    Purchase collapsible ladders and practice using them.

    Install A-B-C type fire extinguishers in the home and teach family members how to use them.

    Do not store combustible materials in closed areas or near a heat source.


    Keep the stove area clean and clear of combustibles such as bags, boxes, and other appliances. If a fire starts, put a lid over the burning pan or use a fire extinguisher. Be careful because moving a pan can cause the fire to spread. Never pour water on grease fires.

    Check electrical wiring

    • Replace wiring if frayed or cracked.
    • Make sure wiring is not under rugs, over nails, or in high traffic areas. Do not overload outlets or extension cords.
    • Outlets should have cover plates and no exposed wiring.
    • Only purchase appliances and electrical devices that have a label indicating that they have been inspected by a testing laboratory such as Underwriter's Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).

    Contact your local fire department or American Red Cross chapter for more information on fire safety.

    Heating Devices

    Heating devices such as portable heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces demand safe operation. Use portable heaters in well-ventilated rooms only. Refuel kerosene heaters outdoors only. Have chimneys and wood stoves cleaned annually. Buy only approved heaters and follow the manufacturers' directions.

    Smoke Detectors

    Smoke detectors more than double the chance of surviving a fire. Smoke detectors sense abnormal amounts of smoke or invisible combustion gases in the air. They can detect both smoldering and burning fires. At least one smoke detector should be installed on every level of a structure. Test the smoke detectors each month and replace the batteries at least once a year. Purchase smoke detectors labeled by the Underwriter's Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).

    The United States has a severe fire problem, more so than is generally perceived. Nationally, there are millions of fires, thousands of deaths, tens of thousands of injuries, and billions of dollars that are lost. In recent news, there was a fire outside of Reno, Nevada that destroyed 29 homes and forced thousands to evacuate from their homes. The blaze burned nearly 3,200 acres with some reported flames of 40 feet high. This is just another reminder of the importance of emergency fire safety. For more information visit www.fema.gov

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