According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States. Many of these large fires often start in a small frying pan, in the second the homeowners turned their backs. Here’s a list of five things not to do when cooking, and what to do instead to prevent a small problem turning into a deadly one:
1. Do Not Leave a Frying Pan Unattended
Most frying pan fires occur within five minutes of turning on the heat source. Turning your back just for a second, even to chop vegetables or kiss your spouse hello, allows enough time for that unattended, oily pan to catch fire. If you need to leave the stove unattended, have another, responsible adult watch it for you until you return. Keep your phone handy so you don’t have to run into the other room to answer it, and be sure everything you need for your recipe is within reach before that pan starts warming. Whatever you need to do, just be sure you never turn your back on a pan once you’ve poured in the oil and turned on the heat.
2. Do Not Use an Extinguisher on a Frying Pan
We cautiously recommend a fire extinguisher in the kitchen only if clients know not to use them to put out stovetop fires. If a greasy pan is on fire and you use an extinguisher to put it out, the force can often cause the burning liquid or oil to scatter, injuring those nearby and creating greater damage. An extinguisher in the kitchen is helpful for spot fires nearby, for example, if the candle on the counter sparks or is knocked over, spreading flame to the cabinet, curtain, or carpet. But an extinguisher will only create more harm if used on a stovetop fire.
3. Do Not Put the Fire Out the Wrong Way
The same harmful consequences of using a fire extinguisher on the stovetop can also occur if water is hastily poured over the fire. The water hitting the hot grease or oil can actually create a miniature explosion, and can inflict major burns on the person who poured it. If a hot pan is on fire, there is one proper way to put it out safely. Cover it, preferably with the lid. If you don’t have a lid, you can use a damp dishtowel, both of which stop oxygen from feeding the fire. Turn off the heat source, and let it cool down where it is. Do not attempt to move the pan, because the burning oil could either spill and burn you or spread the fire throughout the kitchen.
4. Do Not Forget to Turn Off Heat Sources
A forgotten burner or overheated oven can start a fire long after you are too far away to know or stop it. When cooking, always be sure to turn off burners as soon as you finish using them, even if you are going to use the same burner again later. Once the food is out of the oven, turn it off, and never preheat it if you are not going to stay and use it immediately. It is easy to get sidetracked, to set that pot of water on the stove to boil or the oven on preheat, and forget about it while busy with another task. But that overflowing pot or that oven that stays on and unattended for hours are both fires waiting to happen. Before you leave the house, double-check all heat sources, especially those in the kitchen, to be sure they are off safely.
5. Do Not Panic
As with any potentially dangerous situation, panic can cause a minor issue to become a major one. The best way to prevent panic from taking over a situation is to be informed. Make sure you know how to use your appliances, what to do with the most common kitchen fires, where your safety equipment is, and who to call in the event of a true emergency (911). Have a family escape plan and an agreed-upon meeting place where everyone can go and stay until the situation is under control. The more prepared and informed you are, the less likely it is that panic will rule the situation and make matters worse.
If you have any other questions or concerns about fire safety, especially how to keep your home safe and what equipment to use, be sure to give the specialists at Pye-Barker a call today.