Quick quiz: Which activity is statistically more likely to result in a house fire?
a) Running your fireplace
b) Using your hair dryer
c) Frying eggs.
If you answered ‘c,’ you’re already keyed in to the message of the National Fire Prevention Association. The theme of this year’s National Fire Prevention Week is Prevent Kitchen Fires, a reference to the number one source of house fires in the United States.
In the interest of keeping your cooking space—and the rest of your house!—safe and fire-free, here are our top tips for preventing and safely extinguishing kitchen fires.
- The most important thing any of us can do to prevent kitchen fires is to stay in the kitchen while we cook. Frying, broiling, or grilling requires constant attention. If you need to step out, turn off the oven or stove.
- If you’re doing something that takes longer (simmering, baking, boiling, roasting), check it frequently. Never leave the house while using the stove or oven, and set a timer to prevent burning.
- It may sound intuitive to keep flammables away from the stovetop, but think of all the things in your kitchen made of wood, paper, or fabric! Wooden spoons, oven mitts, dish towels, that empty box from your macaroni and cheese . . . You get the idea.
- Believe it or not, food build-up on your stovetop is also a potential fire source. Keep stoves and ranges clean and wipe up spills when the area is cool.
- Maintain a 3-foot radius around the stove and oven that stays clear of children and pets (for their own safety), and use back burners when they are present.
- Be sure your cooking equipment is in good repair and use it properly. Keep electrical cords away from heat sources and never use an extension cord in the kitchen. (Overloaded circuits are a major source of home fires.)
- No cooking in that floppy-sleeved bathrobe. Loose clothing and hair can ignite in a hurry.
- Be extra careful when frying in oil. Don’t overfill pans and remember that wet food placed in oil will cause bigger grease splatters.
- Many of us have been told what to use on different kinds of fires over the years (baking soda on a grease fire, etc.). The current advice of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is just get out. Leave the house, make sure everyone else is out, and call 9-1-1.
- REALLY IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are going to attempt to fight the fire, have everyone else get out of the house and make sure you have a clear path of escape.
- Have a multi-purpose fire extinguisher on hand and learn how to use it. The NFPA offers some great tips on how to use a fire extinguisher correctly. REMEMBER that fire extinguishers should only be used for small fires. If the fire is too big to handle, just get out!
- Small grease fires can best be smothered by sliding a lid over the burning pan. Always remember to turn off the stovetop, and wait till the fire is out and the pan is completely cool before touching it.
- To extinguish an oven or microwave fire, close the door and turn it off. If you can safely reach the microwave plug, pull it out.
- Have cooking equipment repaired or checked after a fire.
Bonus category: Cooking Outdoors
In your kitchen-away-from-home, all the safety practices above apply:
- Keep equipment clean.
- Keep children, pets, and flammable materials several feet away.
- Never leave grills or other cooking equipment unattended.
Additionally, consider these grill-specific tips:
- Be sure your gas grill is open when you light it.
- Never add liquid fuel to a fire.
- Let coals cool completely before disposing of them.
- Never use a tabletop grill or camp stove inside a tent.
- Store fuel carefully and keep it away from heat.
Check out more safety info at the following sites, and get cookin’ with fire safety!