Did you know that cooking fires are the leading cause of house fires here in the valley? Unfortunately the majority of these fires are caused due to thoughtless actions (or inactions). Fortunately, this means that the majority of kitchen fires can be avoided by following these preventive cooking fire tips.
Let’s start with the basics. No matter what (and I mean that) you should always have a working smoke detector and fire extinguisher. Both of these items were created for a reason, your safety. To not have or use them, is a one-stop shop to stupidity (and in this case stupidity=fire). Although the dang things (i.e. fire detectors) will always be annoying they are truly worth it. The Mesa, AZ Fire Department recommends using a dual sensor smoke detector because they are able to detect both flaming and smoldering fires.
Now let’s move a little closer to the source, the kitchen. When you are in the kitchen cooking, it is so important to always be aware and alert. This means that leaving the stovetop unattended to go watch your favorite TV show while the noodles boil is a big no, no. However, there are times when circumstances, out of your control, force you to leave the kitchen. If you must leave the kitchen when you are grilling, boiling, or broiling, always set a timer (or two) to make sure you still remain cognizant and alert of your food.
While grilling, boiling, and broiling can all quickly turn dangerous if unattended, there is one cooking activity which must always, always, always be attended to, that is frying.
Believe it or not, oil is one of the most dangerous things that you cook with (ironically it is also one of the most common items you cook with). Due to this, the use of oil while cooking must be carefully monitored at all times. In fact, frying food poses the highest risk for kitchen fires. Now I’m going to say this once loud and clear, keep an eye on what you fry. If you start to smell or see smoke that means that your oil is way too hot and on the verge of turning into a fire. But guess what? You won’t see or smell smoke unless you’re there! So I lied, I’m going to say it twice, keep an eye on what you fry!
Seriously people just do it, you’ll never regret not catching that episode if it keeps you, your family, and home safe.
Other important preventive cooking fire tips include:
Keeping anything that can easily catch on fire, out of the way (including small children)! Oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, paper towels, etc. should always be kept a safe distance away.
Make sure that when you are done cooking you clean up properly. In other words, turn everything off. In addition, make sure to never put grease (hot or not, but especially not hot) in the garbage. If your beautifully cooked meal left you with some greasy substance properly dispose of it by letting it harden and then throwing it away in a container such as a coffee can. Improper disposal of grease in the trash can quickly turn to tragedy if the grease either catches on fire, or catches something else on fire.
Finally be prepared to put out a fire if need be. This is where that fire extinguisher will come in handy. Beware of other methods commonly used to extinguish a fire, such as water. Never throw water on a pan with oil, actually to be extra safe, never throw water on any pan in the kitchen. The Mesa Fire Department created a fantastic video that demonstrates what could happen if you were to throw water onto a grease fire. Instead, cover the pan or pot that’s on fire with a lid and let it sit. Do not reopen the lid, as this will let oxygen in once again reigniting the fire.
In the end, when it comes to preventive cooking fire tips the bottom line is to keep you safe. If you do not think you can handle the fire, or even if you do, evacuate and immediately call 9-1-1.
While there will never be a sure fire way (pun intended) to avoid a kitchen fire, these tips are a great place to start. So please be smart and safe. Besides, not having to deal with any fire cleanups makes our job a whole lot easier 😉