Preventing Kitchen Fires: The Ultimate Guide
Updated: Mar 29
Most house fires start in the kitchen. The National Fire Protection Association reports that in the period between 2014-2018, “U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 172,900 home structure fires that involved cooking activities per year. These fires caused an average of 550 civilian fire deaths, 4,820 civilian fire injuries, and $1 billion in direct property damage.”
How Dangerous Are Kitchen Fires?
Of course, no matter how small it is, kitchen fires are very dangerous and may cost you not just the safety of your property, but your loved ones.
NFPA's "Home Cooking Fires" report states that:
The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays saw the highest number of home fires from cooking activities. Fire departments responded to on average 470 home cooking fires each day in 2018.
About 61% of home fire deaths reported involved cooking from ranges or cooktops. These pieces of equipment were also responsible for 87% of the cooking fire deaths and 78% of cooking fire injuries.
Electric ranges are more likely to cause cooking fires and other losses in households than gas ranges.
Cooking fires and deaths were most often caused by unattended cooking. Although only 1% of these fires were ignited by clothing, it’s the factor responsible for 8% of home cooking fire deaths.
Over one-quarter of those who were killed by cooking fires died while they were asleep. People trying to control the fire by themselves were responsible for more than half the non-fatal injuries.
Main Factors Contributing to Kitchen Fires
Fire safety starts with preventing potential fire triggers to ignite. Always remember that your kitchen is full of pieces of equipment that are fire hazards.
These are the main factors that can trigger kitchen fires:
Forgetting to turn off the heat of the cooking appliance
Discarded or abandoned material
Heat too close to combustible materials
Misuse of material
Equipment unintentionally turned on or not turned off.
Failure to clean equipment.
Preventing Kitchen Fires
Follow these steps published by the American Red Cross:
Never leave your cooking unattended—even for a second! If you have to leave the kitchen, turn off the stove.
Check your food regularly.
Use a timer so you will remember the stove or oven is on.
Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the stove.
Keep anything combustible (pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, towels, or curtains) away from your stove, oven, or other heat-generating appliances.
Clean cooking surfaces regularly to prevent built-up grease. Never throw hot grease in the garbage.
Purchase a fire extinguisher for your kitchen and take training from your local Fire Department on the proper use of extinguishers.
Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
Make sure you have smoke alarms installed on every level of your home and inside and outside of the bedrooms. Use the alarm’s test button each month, and replace the batteries once a year.
Fire Safety in the Kitchen (Do's and Don'ts)
Keep a lid nearby when cooking with oil to smother a small grease fire.
Turn pot handles inward on the stove.
Install a smoke detector on every level of your home.
Test your smoke detectors monthly.
Change the batteries in your smoke detectors once a year.
Turn off the burner once not in use
Keep anything combustible (pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, towels, or curtains) away from your stove, oven, or other electrical appliances in your cooking area.
Use water to put out grease fires.
Wearing loose clothing
Leave cooking food unattended
Smoke in the kitchen when there is food on the stove.
Rely only on a smoke detector to alert you of fire – have a fire extinguisher readily available, too.
Kitchen fires can be caused by various things, either from an electrical fire, oven fire, stove fire, grease fire, or gas flame. So it is important for us to be aware of the cause of the fire, and how to prevent it.
The best way to prevent a house fire in the kitchen is to be vigilant when cooking. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of kitchen fire, so it is important to never leave your electric appliances and stove unattended when it’s on. Make sure you have a smoke detector on every level of your home and test them monthly.
In addition, make sure to change the batteries in your smoke detectors once a year. If a fire does start, the best way to put it out is with a lid—never use water. Have a fire extinguisher readily available in case the fire gets out of control.
How to properly use a fire extinguisher:
When using an extinguisher, remember the acronym PASS:
Pull the pin.
Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
Watch the fire as you extinguish it. If the fire starts to grow again, move to a safe distance and repeat the process until completely cooled.
Be sure to read the instructions that come with your fire extinguisher, as each one is slightly different.
What to Do if You Catch Fire in Your Kitchen
During a kitchen fire, there are several things you can do to stay safe and minimize the damage.
Get out of the kitchen.
If the fire is small, try to put it out with a lid or baking soda.
On electrical fires, unplug the appliance or turn off the power at the fuse box or circuit breaker.
On grease or oil fires, turn off the heat source if it is safe to do so.
Call the fire department.
Stay out of the kitchen until the firefighters arrive.
Do not try to fight the fire yourself – let the professionals do their job.
Prioritize Your Safety
Last but not least, if an unfortunate fire happens in your kitchen, GET OUT AS FAST AS YOU CAN.
Most people believe that they have at least six minutes before the fire becomes life-threatening. Often there is much less time than this. Make sure everyone is out safely, close the door behind you, and call the fire department.
Find a safe place to wait for first responders and please never go back into a burning home!
For more fire safety tips, reach out to our fire security experts here at B&W Fire Security Systems. Call us at (800) 228-1005.