The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that about 164,500 residential cooking fires occur in the United States annually. In fact, cooking is the leading cause of fires and injuries that occur in the home. However, that doesn't mean you need to be afraid to cook. You can prevent kitchen fires by taking safety precautions.
Preventing Kitchen Fires
Your kitchen doesn't have to be a firetrap. You can take a number of steps to ensure that your meals don't go up in flames.
Watch What You're Cooking
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires. You can mitigate fire risks by:
- Staying in the kitchen when you fry, broil, or grill
- Turning off the heat source if you do leave then kitchen, even for a moment or two
- Using a timer when cooking and checking food regularly to ensure it isn't getting overdone
Be in a Condition to Cook
The NFPA also notes that when you are impaired and inattentive, accidents can happen. Therefore:
- Don't cook on the stove if you've been consuming alcohol
- Avoid using the stove if you are exceedingly sleepy
- Don't cook under the influence of other drugs or mind-altering medications
Clear Your Cooking Surfaces
According to the Washington State Fire Marshall, it's important to keep things that can go up in flames away from heat sources.
- Keep flammable items such as wooden spoons, pot holders, towels, and paper towels clear of the stovetop
- Clean the oven regularly to remove any food debris and clean up spills immediately
- Clean stovetops regularly, removing oil, grease, and food debris
- Keep flammable items such as paper packaging or plastic bags clear of cooking appliances such as toasters, toaster ovens, deep fryers, or electric skillets
- Clean grease and oil from the outside of pots and pans before you put them on the stove or in the oven
Use Appliances Wisely
Consumer Reports estimates kitchen appliances (including dishwashers) caused more than $547 million in fire damage between 2006 and 2008. Safeguard your home by maintaining kitchen appliances.
- Read the manufacturer's instructions and safety warnings for all appliances and follow them closely.
- Register all new appliances immediately so you can receive recall information.
- Act on product recalls immediately.
- Review product safety complaints for the appliances you have in your kitchen to assess potential hazards.
- Clean your range hood of grease buildup regularly.
- Inspect the power cords on all appliances regularly and replace them if they are frayed.
- Store small appliances unplugged.
- Completely cool small appliances before storing them.
- Don't use extension cords. Plug appliances directly into outlets.
- Keep all appliances clean and free of crumbs, grease, and other food debris.
- Have appliances serviced regularly to keep them in good working condition.
Maintain Personal Safety
An NFPA study estimates about half of all house fires start in the kitchen. Maintaining personal safety can help prevent injuries to yourself or others from kitchen fires:
- Don't wear loose-fitting clothing around cooking surfaces, especially loose sleeves.
- Roll up sleeves to keep them away from cooking surfaces.
- Tuck in shirts before cooking.
- Secure long hair to keep it away from cooking surfaces.
- Keep children and pets away from cooking surfaces.
- If you have children in the house, consider using the back burners of the stove.
General Safety Tips
You can take a number of other safety precautions to prevent fires, as well.
- Prevent spillovers of grease or oil by not overfilling pots and pans.
- Keep metal out of the microwave.
- Be careful when lighting a pilot light or flame.
- Don't leave candles or sterno pots burning unattended.
Keep Fires from Getting Out of Control
If you do have a fire, keep it in control using these tips from State Farm:
- Install a smoke detector just outside of your kitchen.
- Keep a dry chemical fire extinguisher in the kitchen
- Don't put water on a grease fire. Instead, smother it with a pot lid or use baking soda or a chemical fire extinguisher.
A Safer Kitchen
By taking the above precautions, you can prevent fires in your kitchen. A safer kitchen will help protect your home and family.