Fire Safety Education: Teaching the Public To Prevent Cooking Fires

Oct. 1, 2014
Timothy Szymanski shares information that fire departments can provide to citizens to prevent cooking-related fires.

One of the leading causes of home fires is cooking-related incidents and in nearly every case it was fully preventable. Cooking-related fires are also the leading reason why people are injured by fire. Cooking fires also cause more injuries than any other type of fire. Injuries usually consist of burns or smoke inhalation.

Traditionally, November and December are when most cooking fires occur and that is because of the extended holiday season. Here is some safety information you can present to the public and practice yourself, both at home and at the station.

Leading causes

Cooking fires are usually caused by one of the following reasons:

1 Grease or food that caught fire.

2. Faulty cooking equipment.

3.Combustible items placed too close to the stove.

Most of these incidents involve cooking grease. When cooking grease catches fires, it burns hot and fast. If not brought under control quickly, it will spread and cause extensive damage.

The easiest way to put out a cooking fire is to shut off the burner and then place a pan lid or some other non-combustible object (such as a cookie sheet, large pan or skillet) over the pan to cut off the oxygen supply. Leave it covered until the pan cools. Taking the lid off too quickly may cause the fire to reignite. Throwing materials onto the pan such as salt, sugar, flour, baking soda or wet towels is too risky. This can spread the fire, which can also lead to injury.

Never throw water on a grease fire. The water will fall to the bottom of the pan, quickly convert to steam and push all the flaming liquid into the air, spreading the fire. This can also lead to serious burns to the person throwing the water on the fire.

If a fire extinguisher is available and the user is trained on how to use it, they should attempt to put the fire out. First make sure to turn off the burner to remove the heat source.

Many times people, will attempt to pick up a pan on fire and place it in the sink or take it outside. Usually the pan is too hot to pick up and when they grab it, so they drop it, causing the burning liquid to spread the fire. Burning pans should never be moved.

When food is cooking on the stove, it should never be left unattended. Food left unattended on a stove is the leading cause of cooking fires. When food is cooking this is not the time to read emails, take a shower or visit neighbors. Even at a slow simmer, people sometimes overlook how long the food has been cooking and it begins to burn, creating thick smoke. This is commonly known as a “pot on the stove” type fire. Although this type of fire creates more smoke than fire, it can cause extensive damage and smoke inhalation. This type of fire has caused numerous fatalities.

Just like anything that is mechanical, cooking equipment needs to be maintained. If a stove is having problems, it should be repaired as soon as the problem starts. Regular maintenance on the stove is a must. Combustible items should be kept well away from the stove and never placed on the stove, even when it is off.

When done cooking, remove all pans from the stove and place in the sink. Never leave dirty pans on the stove. This way if someone accidentally brushes up against a knob and turns on the stove or forgets to shut off the burner, there is nothing to catch fire. Pets have also jumped up on stoves to lick pans when no one was around and in the process their paws turned on a burner.

When food catches fire in the oven, the oven should be shut off and the door kept closed. If you open the oven door, more oxygen is introduced and the fire will be enhanced. If a fire extinguisher is available, a quick application can be made after shutting off the oven and then close the door until the fire is completely out.

Children should never be near the stove when food is cooking. Create a three-foot “kids-free zone” around the stove. Place small pieces of tape on the floor so children know the area to stay out of while food is cooking.

In the event of a cooking fire that cannot be controlled, people should evacuate the home and go to a safe meeting place outside and then call 9-1-1. Never attempt to return inside the home once outside.

People should be reminded about the importance of smoke alarms and the importance of home fire drills. This way, if a fire occurs, they will get adequate warning and know how to escape safely.

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Firehouse, create an account today!