Kitchen fires are the #1 cause of house fires and injuries to homeowners, so avoiding them is a worthy goal for every household. Taking common-sense precautions can greatly reduce the chance of igniting a cooking fire during meal preparation, and understanding how to avoid these fires is simple and smart. Listed here are several recommendations from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
- Cooking oil, a key ingredient for frying and sautéing, is also a prime cause of sudden stove-top fires. Smart cooks heat oils slowly to the desired temperature, then add food gently to reduce the chance of splatter and flare-up. Keeping an appropriately sized lid next to your pan gives you a means to quickly cover the pan and snuff out sudden flames.
- Good chefs always stay in the kitchen; unattended cooking is a dangerous gamble. Staying in the kitchen, especially when frying, grilling, broiling or boiling, is a smart and obvious way to avoid an out-of-control fire.
- Roasting, simmering and baking foods takes more time. While the likelihood of a fire may seem less, the main culprit is forgetting to check on your meal. Set a timer to remind you to check back every so often, and be sure that any wooden utensils, oven mitts, paper products, dish towels and curtains are moved far away from heat sources.
- Early morning and late evening cooking coincides with the time you may be more tired. Staying alert is staying safe, so be sure you’re not too sleepy or distracted by other tasks. Consuming alcohol can be enjoyable when preparing meals, but it is also a risk that should be minimized if not completely avoided.
- Fight or flight. There is no concrete answer concerning whether it is better to fight a kitchen fire or immediately leave the room, close the door behind you and call for help. If you’re really unsure, take the safest route and call 911 as soon as you and all others can leave the kitchen.
NFPA studies report that 55 percent of the people who were injured in reported nonfatal home cooking fires during 2005-2009 were injured when they tried to fight the fire themselves. One of every four house fires reported in 2007-2011 started with fat or grease, and one of every three fire injuries resulted from these fires.