The kitchen is one of the most dangerous rooms in your house — making knowledge of kitchen fire safety a must for everyone. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, causing nearly half of the home fires that result in injury and death.
These are frightening statistics, but don’t throw out your stove just yet. The good news is that kitchen fires are preventable. We walk you through four essential fire safety tips for the kitchen below.
1. Attend Cooking Materials at All Times
According to the NFPA, unattended equipment causes 31 percent of home cooking fires. Reduce your risk of cooking fires by:
- Cooking with a lid nearby: because fire needs oxygen to breathe, you can stop many home fires with quick thinking (and a fire-safe lid).
- Staying alert: this sounds basic, but it is so important. Avoid consuming alcohol while cooking, and always remain in the room when using the stovetop or an open flame.
- Checking food in ovens and pots regularly: just because fire is out of sight doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. Pay attention to any food you’re warming in the oven, and keep an eye on pots and pans simmering away.
2. Be Aware of Smoke Points
According to research from the NFPA, 66 percent of all home cooking fires begin with the ignition of food or other cooking materials. This is especially true of cooking oil, which the NFPA says dominates the cooking fire issue.
Most common cooking oils have a smoke point. Smoke points are precisely what they sound like — the temperature at which the fat or oil used in cooking begins to smoke. It occurs when the fat in the oil breaks down due to the temperature, and in many cases, it results in terrible flavor and odor. As such, it’s essential to know the smoke point of the oil that you use, so you don’t overdo it and ruin your food, or worse, bring the oil to a flashpoint and start a kitchen fire.
You can use a food thermometer to check oil temperatures. The Spruce Eats shared some of the most common household oils and their smoke points:
- Butter: 200 to 250 F
- Canola oil: 400 F
- Corn oil: 440 F
- Extra virgin olive oil: 375 F
- Virgin olive oil: 391 F
- Peanut oil: 450 F
- Vegetable oil: 400 F
Choose an oil with a very high smoke point for all of your frying needs, i.e., anything you need to immerse in oil, cook on high heat or cook for a long time. This essential kitchen fire safety tip is crucial.
3. Regularly Maintain the Fire Alarm
Most fire safety experts recommend installing at least one fire alarm in a kitchen. Fire alarms can save your life, but only if they work correctly. In a recent blog post, our experts answered the very common question, “How do fire alarms work?”. To offer the highlights:
- Test smoke alarms monthly.
- Ensure that everyone in your home knows what the fire alarm sounds like, especially cooks that haven’t used your kitchen before.
- Stage a ‘fire drill’ once per year.
- Follow all manufacturer instructions to keep alarms working to standard.
- Replace batteries regularly, especially if they begin to make a ‘chirping’ sound.
4. Know What to do in the Event of a Fire
While you should do everything you can to prevent a kitchen fire, sometimes things happen. The experts at Fire-Rescue have broken down their recommendations based on where the fire starts:
- Microwave and oven fires: in the event of a microwave or oven fire, experts recommend that you do the following:
- Keep the door closed.
- Turn off the appliance, and unplug it where possible.
- Let the fire burn out in an enclosed space; opening the door will only add oxygen, feeding the flames.
- Stovetop fires: many stovetop fires can be easily prevented by keeping the lid to the pot or pan you’re using handy. If a fire does arise, cover the flames with the top, smothering the fire. If the pot you’re using doesn’t have a lid, keep a cookie sheet or something similar nearby.
- Oil and grease fires: for the experts at Fire Rescue, these fires are some of the most dangerous. They recommend the following in the event of a grease fire:
- Cover the flames with a lid or cookie sheet.
- Turn off the source of the heat.
- If the grease fire is small, cover the flames in baking soda or salt.
- If necessary, spray the fire with a fire extinguisher.
In the event of a kitchen fire, ask yourself the following questions:
- How large is the initial fire?
- How fast is the fire growing?
- What is feeding the fire?
- Will anything in proximity to the fire feed it?
- Is there anyone in the home that you need to evacuate?
If you’ve asked yourself these questions and assessed that the situation is beyond your control, or if the situation changes and you no longer feel confident or safe, call 9-1-1 or the fire department as soon as possible.
Keep Fire Safe in Your Kitchen
Kitchen fires are some of the most common fires that occur in the home. However, with a bit of prevention and help from these four kitchen fire safety tips, you can keep your home and your loved ones safe.