Everything You Need To Know About Kitchen Fire Safety

Kitchen Fire Safety

Kitchen fire safety should be a top priority for every household that spends any amount of time cooking at home.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration over 45% of all house fires are a result of cooking and 94% of all cooking fires happened in the kitchen.

During the five-year period of 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 156,600 home structure fires in which cooking equipment was involved. Annually this accounted for 400 deaths, 5,080 injuries, and over $800 million in property damage.

By location, kitchen fires were most often started by a:

  • (57%) Range or cook-top
  • (16%) Oven or rotisserie
  •   (5%) Microwave oven
  •   (4%) Portable cooking or warming device
  •   (2%) Grill, barbecue or hibachi
  •   (1%) Deep fryer

Additionally the leading cause of kitchen fires was unattended equipment which accounted for ~50% of deaths and injuries.

For a room in your house that receives a lot of attention, these are very scary facts. Just imagine the dangers that could result from birthday parties, family gathers, house parties, and other holiday gatherings where heavy cooking is involved. Thanksgiving by far was the #1 day for kitchen fires…can you say deep fried turkey?

The last thing you want is to put you, your family, and your guests in danger.

And not to scare you but cooking is the most dangerous activities you can do in your house. Cooking fires are still rare, but relative to total annual house fires they are extremely prevalent.

…and you thought running with scissors was bad!

Facts About Kitchen Fires

Facts About Kitchen Fires

As it is, cooking equipment is the #1 cause of residential fires and home injuries while being the #3 cause of fire deaths at home (from 2007-2011).

More so, cooking fires were the cause of:

  • Two of every five (43%) reported home fires,
  • One of every seven (16%) home fire deaths,
  • Two of every five (38%) of reported home fire injuries, and
  • 12% of the direct property damage resulting from home fires.

Because of this it is imperative that you have a clear understanding of kitchen fire safety as well as a plan of action in case there is a fire. Even better you should make sure you and those around you understand the basic preventive measures that can be taken to reduce the chance of fires.

Fire Prevention Tips

Fire Prevention Tips

Kitchen fires, as dangerous and prevalent as they are, are quite simple to prevent. All you need is a little knowledge and the willingness to take action. With the below kitchen fire safety facts and prevention list you can help make sure you and your family are safe.

Household Fire Prevention

The first step to preventing kitchen fires (or any fire inside your house) is to have the equipment that will warn you of the first signs of danger. Smoke detectors for example will blatantly alert you if a fire has stared.

There should be one installed on every floor, in every room of the house. Especially in bedrooms and close to the kitchen. Be sure to change the batteries or have them serviced every year.

Fire extinguisher should also be present throughout the house. Especially close to the kitchen. They should be a class ABC fire extinguisher. If possible consider being trained on how and when to use a fire extinguisher.

Next, make sure everyone is aware of what to do in case of a fire emergency. Even if your children are very young, its important to teach them to not touch the fire and to call 911 or an adult. Always have a plan.

Lastly, check to make make sure that your address is clearly visible from the street. If the painted numbers on the curb are illegable, repaint them so fire safety crews can easily find your address.

Appliance Fire Prevention

With the proper use, care, and maintenance of kitchen appliances you should have no worries about spontaneous fires starting. But if you are still worried then follow the simple precaution measures below and rest a little safer at night.

Do Not Plug Too Many Appliances Into One Outlet: This applies to every outlet in your home but never over use a plug or you could risk a shortage or worse yet a fire.

Unplug Electric Appliances When Not In Use: This could include coffee makers, toasters, blenders, toaster ovens, food processors, etc. Not only will this reduce the likelihood of malfunctioning equipment but will save you a lot on your electric bill too!

Ideally, just like locking your doors at night, you want to make this a habit. It might one day save your life.

Never Store Food In The Oven: You will forget about it or someone else will not even know its there while they preheat the oven. This can quickly escalate into a kitchen fire.

Never Use Your Stove Or Oven To Heat Your Home: It will not work, will waste a ton of money, and can very quickly lead to a fire. In no way is this what your stove or oven was designed for.

Cooking Fire Prevention

Dirty Grease PanThe most important aspects of kitchen and cooking fire prevention is cleanliness, proper attire, and organization.

First and foremost make sure to keep your kitchen clean. Grime and grease (which are flammable) can build up on kitchen surfaces and lead to fires. Wipe up any spills immediately to avoid hazards.

Remember, cooking fires are the #1 source for injuries in the home. This also means that kitchen fire safety is the #1 opportunity to keep your family safe. Don’t add to that statistic. When possible, avoid cooking while wearing clothes that could present a fire hazard.

Some examples include:

  • Long sleeves
  • Clothing with frayed endings
  • Very thin materials
  • Clothing that has recently been in contact with flammable liquids
  • Scarfs

But don’t change just yet; you NEVER want to leave cooking food unattended. This is especially important when you are cooking with grease or using the oven’s top heat level. If you absolutely have to leave be sure to turn off the heat.

In general you’ll want to keep flammable items as far away from heat sources as possible. Some examples include:

  • Dish towels
  • Pot holders
  • Paper towels
  • Curtains
  • Napkins
  • Paper plates
  • Cook books
  • Food packaging
  • Oven mitts
  • Cooking magazines

Obviously this is not a all inclusive kitchen fire prevention list but it should give you an idea of what to keep away from open flames. Not doing this could result in these items catching on fire by simple proximity.

And when you are cooking over the stove, be sure to turn pot handles inward so you don’t accidentally bump or spill their contents. Also never leave something cooking unattended.

What NOT To Do If There Is A Kitchen Fire

What NOT To Do If There Is A Kitchen Fire

Before we dive into what you should do if there is a kitchen fire, it’s important FIRST to understand what you should NOT do if a fire does happen.

  • DO NOT put water on the fire.
  • DO NOT take pans off the stove
  • DO NOT try to put out the fire if it has spread outside the immediate area
  • DO NOT use a water based fire extinguisher
  • DO NOT wait to call 911. Call them immediately.
  • DO NOT use cloth towels to try and put out the fire

 What-To-Do-If-There-Is-A-Kitchen-Fire-FXSF-section-bannerWhat To Do If There Is A Kitchen Fire

The most important thing to remember with kitchen fire safety is that if a fire does start in your kitchen (or anywhere in your house) that in any way looks like it is out of control, LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. Do not spend any significant amount of time trying to put it out. If you think it will take more than a few seconds, DO NOT stick around. Get out of the house and CALL 911.

In order of importance what you should do if there is a kitchen fire includes:

  1. Determine if you can put the fire out in less than 15-30 seconds. If you can do so. If you can’t,
  2. Leave the area (gather family members as necessary),
  3. Call 911,
  4. Do NOT reenter the building until firefighters have told you it is safe to do so

Below is a video that aired on CBS with some very helpful tips in case of a fire. It’s important to know how to put out a kitchen fire correctly.

Key Kitchen Fire Safety Points To Remember:

  • DO NOT USE WATER to douse a GREASE fire.
  • DO NOT use a WET TOWEL to put out a GREASE fire.
  • DO NOT use a WATER BASED fire extinguisher.
  • Use a DRY CHEMICAL fire extinguisher for GREASE fires.
  • When using the fire extinguisher simply pull the pin, AIM AT THE GREASE FIRE and pull the handle.
  • If the flame is SMALL, USE A LID to smother the flame and TURN OFF the heat.
  • Once a kitchen fire starts, you have 30 SECONDS TO ONE MINUTE TO EXTINGUISH THE FIRE before it gets more serious.
  • If the fire gets out of control CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.
  • HAVE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER that has an A B or C rating.

Another great way to keep your family safe is to keep a box of baking soda in the kitchen since it is a great, short term, alternative to a fire extinguisher. Baking soda can be used to put out very small fires.

Oven/Microwave fires

If a fire starts in your oven or stove, close the oven door and turn off the heat source. Do not reopen the door until you are 100% sure that the fire is out.

If a fire starts in your microwave the same principles apply. Keep the door close and turn the microwave off. Do not open the door until you know the fire is out.

There are two reasons you want to keep the oven and microwave doors shut. (1) It keeps the fire from spreading and (2) it limits the oxygen the fire needs to sustain.

Remember, if the fire does not go out, leave your home and call the fire department immediately.

Kitchen Fire Safety For Kids

Kitchen Fire Safety For Kids

Many family’s enjoy cooking together where Mom, Dad, and kids all actively participate in preparing meals. If this is the case in your house then it’s important that you teach your children about fire safety in the kitchen.

Rules Of The Kitchen

Children are especially at risk because of their obvious inexperience so it’s important to set some ground rules in the kitchen. Remind them that these are for their safety and are very important to follow.

  • NEVER cook without an adult present
  • STAY AWAY from open flames or hot stoves and appliances
  • DO NOT touch any pots or pans unless an adult says its ok
  • ASK an adult for something if you can’t reach it
  • WEAR APPROPRIATE clothing while cooking
  • NEVER PUT WATER ON A FIRE in the kitchen
  • NEVER HOLD A CHILD while cooking.
  • TELL AN ADULT if they are breaking any rules

Below we’ll go into a little more detail about each rule.

Never Cook Without And Adult Present: This is easily the best way to keep your children safe. Explain to them that they should never cook or use the stove, oven, or toaster oven without adult supervision. Keep in mind that you should also NEVER leave a child unattended in the kitchen while cooking.

Kitchen Fire Safety For KidsStay Away From Open Flames Or Hot Stoves And Other Appliances: Children don’t always recognize that as pretty as flames are, they are very dangerous and should never be touched. Also even though appliances don’t look like it, they may still be very hot too. Set a minimum of a 3 foot “kid-free” area around stoves or where hot foods are prepared.

Do Not Touch Any Pots Or Pans Unless An Adult Says It’s OK: Depending on the age of your child, they may not understand that pots and pans can be very hot but not look like it, just like appliances. It’s best to explain to them that they shouldn’t touch any pots or pans unless an adult gives the OK. A great way to control this if you have young children is to give them pots and pans to plan with on the ground that you know are safe…assuming you can stand the noise.

Ask An Adult For Something If You Can’t Reach It Yourself: Very often curiosity will get the best of a child and they will reach for something on top of a counter or table. This could be very dangerous because (1) it may be very hot and contain something dangerous (e.g scolding hot soup) or (2) they may cause more things to fall on them unintentionally.

Wear Appropriate Clothing While Cooking: It is important that children follow the same rules as adults when it comes to wearing appropriate clothing while in the kitchen or cooking. This means they should roll up their sleeves, avoid wearing clothes with frayed edges, tie back their hair, wear an apron, and use oven mitts when handling hot items.

Never Put Water On A Fire In The Kitchen: In the event of a fire a child’s first reaction might be to throw water on it. But as we know that could be very dangerous if it is an electrical or grease fire. Both of which are the most likely culprits in a kitchen fire.

Never Hold A Child While Cooking: This also includes while holding or drinking hot liquids or food. Not only are you limited by having at most one hand available, you also have a young person who may try to grab what ever you are holding or doing.

Tell An Adult If They Are Breaking Any Rules: If you expect your child to follow some basic kitchen fire safety rules then it is only fair that you held to the same basic principles. Obviously you don’t need to ask an adult to touch something hot but you should still wear appropriate clothing while cooking. Also but having children help keep you accountable it reinforces the rules for them.

What They Should Do If There Is A Fire

Next you want to teach them what to do if there is a fire in the kitchen (or anywhere in the house). This can be done in three simple steps:

  1. Find an adult
  2. Leave the house
  3. Call (or ask a neighbor to call) 911

Again reinforce that they should not try to put out the fire themselves nor should the use water on a fire. This could lead to a worse situation.

A great way to teach these steps to your child is to practice them. Just like at school, practice fire drills should be done at home. This way they know which exits to use if there is a fire in the house, which neighbor to go to if there is not an adult in the house, and what to say to the 911 dispatcher when they call for help.

What To Do If They Burn Themselves

Even though this is a parents worse nightmare kitchen burns still happen. Adults burn themselves all the time too. The first thing to remember is that if the burn is serious they should call 911. Otherwise they want to tell an adult immediately and then run cold water over it. A wet towel around a piece of ice is a good option too. But be sure that there is no direct contact between skin and ice.

Talk To Them ConstantlyRestaurant Cooking Fire

Talking to your kids about kitchen fire safety is not a one time event, it is a process. When ever an opportunity presents its self that is relevant to talking to your kids about safety you should do so.

An great example is if you ever go to a hibachi bar. Their professionally trained chefs put on a great show inclusive of an union volcano. What child wouldn’t want to try to do that themselves?

After events like this be sure to talk with your children afterwards and explain that what they saw was done by trained professionals and should not be tried at home.

Be Prepared Be Safe

Be Prepared, Be Safe

As you can see, preventing a kitchen fire is simple if you know what to do. The important thing to remember is that you should always be prepared and always have a plan to ensure the best chance of survival.

Have A Plan

It is highly recommended that each household, building, or office have a written or drawn evacuation plan. This relates to any emergency or natural disaster, but is especially important for fire safety.

Key Points Of Your Plan:

  • Clearly mark ALL escape routes
  • If possible, have TWO EXITS for each room
  • Mark FIRE EXTINGUISHERS locations
  • Mark gas SHUT OFF valves
    • Designate who is responsible for turning them off
  • Assign a designated MEETING AREA
    • Mailbox, street light, neighbors house, etc
  • If more than one story, where escape ladders are LOCATED
    • Fire Department
    • Police Department
    • Neighbors
  • Family BUDDIES
    • Pair young children and elderly adults with a buddy

Check Your Equipment

Always make sure your smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are in proper working order. If any of them need maintenance be sure to check for a local businesses that specializes in fire extinguisher services.

Fire extinguishers should be located on each floor, in clearly designated areas.

In regards to smoke detectors, there should be one in every room on every floor. Perhaps not in the kitchen (to avoid false alarms) but very very close.

I hope this resource has helped keep you and your family safe. If you ever have any questions be sure to contact us and a FXSF team member will be back in touch with you.

~ FXSF Team

Kitchen Fire Safety images courtesy of Mister GC & graur codrin /

November 6, 2014