"Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful..."
Those famous lyrics, written by Sammy Kahn, are holiday favorites. Unfortunately, "delightful" fires can wind up being the frightful character in the story if you experience a kitchen fire.
Did you know cooking-related fires are the #1 cause of house fires in the United States? While kitchens are always susceptible to fire, the holiday season presents increased risks because you are more likely to do all of the things you're not supposed to do when it comes to preventing house fires.
Prevent Kitchen Fires This Holiday Season
As the holidays approach, tis the season to enjoy more time in the kitchen. Amidst all of the the festivities, hustle, and bustle, we can be easily distracted from keeping our loved-ones safe from fires. Here are some of the things you can do to protect your kitchen—and your home—from going up in frightful flames this holiday season.
Don't be shocked by an unexpected electrical fire
Plug only one appliance—like toaster ovens, coffee pots and crock pots—into each outlet at a time. This will prevent crowding and overheating the receptacle. Keep countertop appliances far enough away from the wall, allowing sufficient ventilation.
FACTOID: SafeElectricity.org advises that you make sure your home has arc-fault circuit protection (AFCIs) to help prevent electrical fires, which they say are which are twice as deadly as other home fires.
If there is an electrical mishap, never touch electric outlets or appliances with wet hands: electricity and water do not mix. Also, never use electric appliances in wet or damp conditions. Unplug with a mitt or towel, shut off the breaker, and then attend to the fire—if possible. Always use your best judgment; if the flames are out of control, evacuate family members and pets ASAP.
Be mindful when decorating the kitchen
Be very mindful of the holiday decor you hang, place or illuminate, so as to prevent flammable materials from catching on fire. This is especially if they are candle- or flame-based, more than half of decoration-related kitchen fires start from candles. Unfortunately, 20% of house fires that flare up in November and December occur as the result of holiday decorations being too close to heat and/or flame. However, this advice applies to ANY kitchen decor—including drapes, hand towels, drying pads, and other non-holiday kitchen adornments or materials.
Keep a nose out for signs of a gas leak
If someone in your family mentions that, "something smells like rotten eggs", this is a warning to heed! The smell of rotten eggs is a telltale sign of a dangerous gas leak. While the leak may be coming from the connection to the stove, it could also be from outside the house. If there is a breach in the stove’s connection, you may also hear a hissing sound. Pulling the stove away from the wall will only lead to a larger disconnection, making matters worse. If you suspect a gas leak, don’t turn on the lights or use your cell phone. This can spark the gas in the air, causing it to ignite.
If you’ve been smelling it for a while, then it’s best to evacuate everyone from the house first and open all the doors and windows. Locate the shut-off, turn it off, and call 911.
Never leave the stove or oven unattended
We know; this is so much easier said than done. Dinner is cooking on the stove top but you have all the laundry to get done before you head out of town for the holiday weekend. Or, perhaps the holiday baking still has another 45-minutes to go, but it's time to pick the kids up from school....
Keep in mind that two-thirds (66%) of all kitchen fires were started by the ignition of the food or other cooking equipment. Also, 33% of kitchen fires got out of control because the cooks left the cooking or baking items unattended. Don't start another batch of cookies, or another cake or pie, unless you will be able to remain home the entire cooking time. If you have to leave the kitchen or house, turn off the stove top and turn it back on when you return.
Avoid distractions in the kitchen if you're the cook
There is nothing more fun than gathering a kitchen full of family and/or friends as you prepare holiday meals. However, please be mindful of distractions. Again, unattended equipment was a factor in one-third of all home fires and— incredibly unfortunately—in almost half of fire-associated deaths.
Do enjoy kitchen camaraderie, but don't let it distract you from your task. Grease fires can start and flare up quickly, and your immediate attention and treatment are essential in putting them out before they can do serious damage to others.
Protect flammable materials that are on your person
Those beautiful, fancy rayon dress sleeves, locks of flowing hair you normally keep back in a ponytail, or skirt-hems that swish by open flames while climbing on the kitchen countertop to retrieve holiday serving platters—all are recipes for flammable disaster. Clothing ignitions led to 18% of home cooking equipment fire deaths. What a sincere tragedy. Keep hair tied back and protect sleeves, scarves and other flowy materials from open flames.
Beware of flying frying oils
Oil used for frying is one of the leading causes of cooking-related fires. Keep an eye on what you fry, and remember that baking soda—not water—extinguishes grease fires. Water only intensifies the flames and makes them worse. The video below terrifyingly illustrates what happens when you throw water onto a grease fire.
Maintain your fire-prevention tools
The best defense against a home fire is to have your fire extinguisher, smoke detectors, and power outlets in proper working order at all times. Know how to use them, and check them regularly. October is National Fire Safety Month and this is the ideal time to prepare your fire arsenal. Inspect extinguishers, detectors, and outlets around the home at regular intervals—especially before the holidays.
Things To Do If a Kitchen Fire Flares Up
Kitchen fires are typically triggered by three occurrences:
- Grease fires from unattended frying pans.
- An unattended pot dehydrates and overheats.
- Grease splatters in a hot oven.
If a fire in the kitchen arises and you feel you can contain it, there are some steps you can take:
Put a lid on it
In a case where something cooking on the stove-top catches fire, you can take quick action. Immediately, but carefully, cover the pan with a lid and turn off the burner.
Call in the baker
If the fire expands to the countertop, you do still have time to stop it in it's tracks. Throwing lots of baking soda or salt on the fire will cause it to quickly die out.
Throw in the towel
Another option is to smother the fire with a wet towel or cloth. Again, remember that throwing water on a fire, especially a grease fire, is not a good idea.
Get professional help
If the fire cannot be contained within a few minutes, then it is best to proceed with evacuating everyone from the home, including pets. Get to a safe location, far enough from the property, and contact the authorities telling them your address, what the emergency is, and how many people are involved. According to ready.gov, it can take just two minutes for a fire to become a life-threatening situation, and only five minutes for your home to be completely engulfed in flames. Remember, while no one wants property damage, you and your family’s safety comes first.
While there are many different hazards in the kitchen, don't let that scare you from enjoying your favorite celebrations and gatherings with your loved-ones. Follow this advice to maintain a safe and fire-free kitchen, so you and your family can have a happy, healthy holiday season.