According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home-fire injuries. An NFPA report states that between 2014 and 2018, US fire departments responded to an average of 172,900 home fires that originated in the kitchen.
NFPA statistics for 2014 – 2018 show that:
- Kitchen fires caused an average of 2,200 deaths and 19,280 injuries
- Cooking fires resulted in $4 billion in property damage
- Peak times for kitchen fires are Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day
- 8% of home cooking-fire deaths were caused by clothing catching on fire
- 61% of reported home cooking fires start on the stove top as opposed to the oven
- Electric ranges have a higher chance of igniting than gas ranges
- More than half of non-fatal injuries occurred when people tried to control the fire themselves
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, many of us are spending a lot more time at home and cooking more frequently these days. So, it follows that kitchen fires and their related injuries are on the rise too. However, by taking some simple precautions and using common sense, meal-time prep doesn’t have to end in disaster.
- Use caution and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when lighting the pilot light or burners.
- Tie back long hair and avoid wearing loose clothing or dangly sleeves that could get caught on a pan handle or ignite from a burner flame.
- Always have a lid near your pot in case you need to use it to cover the pot and douse a fire.
- Keep appliances clean, serviced, and in good repair. Remove crumbs from the toaster or toaster oven regularly and wipe out the microwave and oven from time to time.
- Unplug appliances when you’re not using them. All the counter-top gadgets like your toaster, blender, and coffee maker continue to use power when they’re left plugged in. If the wiring is old or the thermostat faulty, it could start a fire.
- Keep dish towels, food wrappers, paper towels, and utensils away from the stove when you’re cooking as they could easily ignite if they get too close to a lit burner.
- Install a smoke detector in the kitchen too close to the stove. You don’t want to trigger it every time you’re cooking. (But you should place one nearby so it can warn you of an actual fire.)
- Cook if you’re tired or under the influence. It pays to have all your wits about you — especially if you’re dealing with hot oil.
- Leave the stovetop unattended while you’re in the middle of cooking — especially if you’re frying or if the oven’s very hot. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires and related casualties. If you need to step away, turn off the burners.
- Overfill pans with oil or grease. If it’s hot and it spatters, oil or grease can cause a bad burn or start a fire. Even when cold, spilled oil or grease can make a hard-to-clean-up mess, which can be dangerous if slipped on.
- Cook on a dirty stove. Grease is highly flammable, so clean up spills as they happen.
- Put anything metal in the microwave. The sparks can damage your microwave or even start a fire.
Hopefully by following these tips, you’ll stay safe while cooking up a storm. But if you do have a cooking fire — just get out! Then call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number from safety. If you try to contain the fire yourself first, make sure everyone else in the household leaves and that you have a clear escape route in case you can’t get the fire under control.