By: Leanne Ely
A few years ago, a friend of mine—a young mother of two—experienced a terrifying moment in her kitchen. She had turned on the water to boil a pot of eggs and went to change a diaper in the next room. Smelling something burning, she and ran to the kitchen to discover that a tea towel hanging from the over door was on fire. She was able to douse the flames, which were presumably ignited from a spark due to something burning on the element. Needless to say, she no longer keeps towels anywhere near the stove when she is cooking.
While they are preventable, cooking fires are the most common cause of home fires in the United States. Here are some safety tips for preventing kitchen fires:
-Be aware of flammables. Contrary to common practice, do not keep oven mitts and kitchen towels anywhere near the stove top, contrary to common practice. By the same token, curtains, appliance cords, etc. should be kept far away from the stove.
-Dress appropriately when cooking and/or baking. Loose fitting clothing is more likely to catch fire. While cooking, especially over propane burners and gas stoves, keep baggy shirts tucked in or tied back with a well-fitting apron. Avoid wearing long, flowing sleeves and dresses while working near the stove.
-Do not leave the kitchen while cooking. If it is absolutely necessary to exit the kitchen while cooking, remove all pots and pans from the heat and turn off all burners and broilers. Unattended pots and pans are the most common cause of kitchen fires.
-Become familiar with the smoke points of the fats and oils being used. Oils with low smoke points brought to high temperatures can catch fire.
-Dispose of grease responsibly. Do not pour hot grease in the garbage can because it can cause something in the trash can to ignite and catch fire. Wait for the grease to cool and then dispose of it.
-Clean grease spills immediately. While cooking, grease can fall into the drip pan under the stove’s cooking element. If this happens, turn off the heat immediately, and wait for the burner to cool down. Once everything in the area has completely cooled, clean up the spill. If the grease is still present the next time the stove is in use, the old grease could easily ignite and start a fire.
-Use appropriate cooking utensils. If cooking something in a deep layer of oil, be sure to use long-handled tongs to prevent grease from splashing. In fact, deep-fat cooking should only be done in a deep fryer.
-Watch for smoke. When cooking oil begins to smoke, it is close to catching fire and must carefully be removed from the pan and from the heat source.
-Be sure to have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen within easy reach in the event cooking-related fire. Do not ever put water on a grease fire because it will cause the fire to spread.