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Fire safety in the kitchen

Kitchens are a natural place for fires to start – you’re already working in open flames or very high heat. Take extra precautions to avoid fires.

Prevent kitchen fires

The number one cause of kitchen fires is unsupervised cooking. When you cook something on top of the stove or in the oven, stick with it. For long-cooking dishes, plan activities that you can do in the kitchen, such as cleaning or preparing other dishes. If “kitchen activities” don’t come to mind, consider reading, writing, talking with family or friends, or even reading a story to the children. All of this can keep you happy and productively busy while keeping an eye on what’s cooking.

If you can’t or don’t want to stay in the kitchen:

  1. Frequently check the food that is being cooked,
  2. Install a working smoke alarm where it can warn of a possible fire.
  3. Keep a fire extinguisher within easy reach.

Kitchens can be very active places, especially when preparing meals. These basic tips can increase your safety:

  1. Wear tight-fitting, short-sleeved clothing when cooking. Loose clothing can catch fire more easily.
  2. Watch the children closely in the kitchen. Teach them fire safety and proper tool handling to avoid burns, cuts, or other injuries. Do this before teaching them to cook. Stay with the children at every step as they learn to cook. Reinforce and praise your safety skills.
  3. Fat can build up quickly in the kitchen. Grease fires can quickly spread throughout the kitchen. Clean cooktops and countertops frequently to prevent build-up of food and grease. Ideally, this should be done immediately after cooking or during cleaning after each meal.
  4. Keep flammable materials, such as curtains, towels, pot holders, plastic or paper bags, away from cooking surfaces.
  5. Store all flammable solvents and cleaners away from all heat sources. Never store gasoline or kerosene in the house, especially in the kitchen.
  6. While cooking, make sure the handles of the pans are away from the front of the stove so that no one accidentally hits them. Boiling water or hot fat thrown from a pushed pan can cause severe burns. Keep the area in front of the stove clear and quiet while cooking.

Putting out a fire

Even with the greatest of care, you may one day have to put out your kitchen fire.

First, assess the hazard. If the fire has spread beyond the oven or skillet, call the fire department immediately. In most locations, you can call 911 and they will transfer you to the necessary service.

If the fire is small and contained, such as food that burns in a pan, these tips can help:

  1. Slide the lid of a skillet over a fat or oil fire to smother the flames. Put out the fire. Look carefully to make sure the fire doesn’t spread to some unexpected place. Leave the lid in place until cool. Once the fire is completely out and everything is cool, thoroughly clean everything that was involved in the fire, especially the stove or oven. If the flame came out of a pan, you will need to decide if there was any damage that needs to be repaired before you can cook again. Caution: Never attempt to carry a burning pan outside. Doing so increases the risk of spreading fire and getting burned.
  2. Keep a large box of baking soda on hand. Aside from its other uses, you can pour baking soda over most small food fires to extinguish the flames.
  3. Never use water or flour to put out fires. Water added to a grease fire reacts violently, sending hot grease everywhere. This spreads the fire and increases the chances of getting burned. Flour can have a similar effect. Water poured on flames can also enter the electrical circuits of the stove or oven, which can complicate the situation and increase the danger.
  4. If a fire occurs in your oven, keep the door closed and turn off the fire. This will generally smother the flames without much risk.
  5. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. There are several types of fire extinguishers, each designed for use with specific types of fire. Make sure you have the correct type; one that can put out the grease-based fires most often found in kitchens. Make sure you know how to use the fire extinguisher. Check periodically to make sure it is in good working order.

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