Cooking is the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries. So, with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, it is a good opportunity to practice fire safety in the kitchen. First, let’s discuss some statistics:
- According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 1,000 residential structure fires every day. This translates to 42 home fires every hour, or one reported home fire every 86 seconds. More than two of every five (43 percent) reported home fires from 2009-2013 started in the kitchen or cooking area.
- In November 2014, an average of 18 cooking fires per day occurred in the U.S., while on Thanksgiving there were 30.
- Since 2005, Ohio has ranked in the top five of cooking fires during Thanksgiving. Currently, Ohio ranks No. 2.
- Two-thirds of cooking fires started with the ignition of food. Ranges and stovetops accounted for 58 percent of these fires, and ovens accounted for 16 percent. The majority of cooking fires usually begin when oil and frying is involved.
In Athens alone, there were 198 fires within a structure from 2013-2018. A total of 114 of them were cooking fires for an average of 58 percent, which is 15 percent higher than the national average.
The kitchen is often referred to as the “heart of the home,” where meals are cooked and families are given the opportunity to spend time together, celebrate, and of course, enjoy delicious food.
Being mindful of these tips and guidelines while cooking can go a long way in preventing kitchen fires and keeping everyone safe from harm:
- Unattended cooking is the main preventable reason for cooking fires. Never leave cooking unattended.
- Keep all combustible objects such as oven mitts, paper, and dishtowels away from heat.
- Keep the cooking area uncluttered.
- Never allow children to play near the cooking area. Make sure they know how to be safe in the kitchen and establish rules to keep them safe from scalds and burns.
- Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove to keep them from being bumped or grabbed by children.
- Keep appliances clean and free from food spills.
- Do not wear baggy clothes that could catch on fire and pull long hair back.
- Oil can ignite in an instant. Always watch hot oil and if it catches fire, immediately place a properly fitting lid over it; then turn off the heat source.
- throw water on a grease fire. Instead, slide a lid over the pan or use Baking Soda to suffocate the fire. Also, do not throw hot grease in the garbage.
- Microwaves are responsible for many fires. Make sure microwaves have enough room to breathe and that the vents are unobstructed. If there is a fire in the microwave, turn it off and keep the door closed.
- Keep electrical appliances away from water and keep cords away from heat. Always unplug electrical cords from additional appliances. A plug can ignite even if the device is off. Power surges and problems with electricity can cause a fire.
- Plug appliances directly into an outlet; the use of extension cords is dangerous.
- Do not cook if you are sleepy, drowsy, or under the influence of heavy medication or alcohol. It is important to be alert when cooking.
- Avoid scalding from steam by carefully lifting lids from hot foods or opening up something like a bag of popcorn.
- Use a timer to help you remember to check on food if you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, making sure it is the right type and that you know how to use it in an event of a fire.
- Make sure smoke detectors are working and placed appropriately throughout your home.
Never spend a significant amount of time trying to put out a fire. It is always best to get out immediately and call 911. For more information, go to www.com.ohio.gov/fire and follow the link to kitchen fire safety.
Questions regarding fire safety in the kitchen can be answered by the Athens City Fire Department at 740-592-3301.