Too many cooks? Holiday celebrations can bring lots of extra people into your home kitchen, including children. Countertops may be more crowded than usual with extra holiday foods, and cooking gear. Conversations can be lively and fast-moving. Yet in a single moment of distraction, an accidental stove-top fire can lead to panic.
While fast, correct action in a stove-top fire can save the day, misguided actions can potentially spread the fire, cause painful & dangerous burns, as well as do damage to your property. The facts can be scary: Nearly 117 people die in every 100 kitchen fires, according to the US Fire Adminstration’s 2008 statistics.
Here are some selected basics to know:
- Prevention is always the best course. If too many people, or too many things are crowding your kitchen, it may be time to call a time out and get focused. The more crowded it is, the more likely something will get brushed accidentally, such as a flammable towel accidentally coming in contact with a gas stove flame. Conversational distractions can mean an imminent boil over will not be caught in time. A child reaching for something could tip over a hot item and suffer serious burns. Be aware of these added risks, and train children about fire safety. Keep a safety zone around the stove at all times.
- Basic fire suppression consists of removing at least one of these: Oxygen, Fuel, and/or Heat. As the video depicts, it is possible to remove oxygen and smother pan flames by carefully SLIDING, from the side (not over the top), a fitted lid on the pan. Be sure to protect your hand with an oven mitt. If you don’t have a fitted lid for the pan, try using a cookie sheet in the same manner. Turn the burners OFF. Leave the pan alone and do not open the lid until the pan and the entire area has completely cooled.
- Never use water, a wet towel, sugar or flour to try to suppress a grease fire. Water spreads grease fires, and sugar or flour can not only do the same, but can cause flashovers.
- If you can’t control it fast, get everyone OUT. A single accidental flame can be out of control in as little as 30 seconds, and the entire room can be in flames in three minutes or less. Smoke can knock people out in as little as two minutes. Evacuate everyone from the structure and call the fire department from outside the building.
What about fire extinguishers? If you use one, here are some things you need to know:
- You have to have the right type of extinguisher,
- It needs to be new or properly maintained, and
- You need to know how to use it properly.
Unfortunately it is RARE that all of these three factors are true in the typical home kitchen. Watch for more information on these three key factors in a future article. In the meantime, you should also know that the use of a fire extinguisher can do damage to appliances. Most of all, remember that whether you try to smother pan flames with a lid, or use a fire extinguisher, neither option is worth risking serious burns or even your life. When in doubt, get out!
Keep a lid on distractions in the kitchen during the holidays, and may you and your family be safe and well!