Fire Safety: What Every Cook Needs to Know in the Kitchen

Kitchen Fire Safety

What Every Cook Needs to Know in the Kitchen when it comes to fire safety.This morning I nearly burnt the house down. (Dearest landlord if you’re reading this, the house was not harmed in this safety campaign).

So, this morning I was in the kitchen cooking, listening to Keisha Cole, and thinking, “why would I even want to be with a man who’s busy calling Keisha?” When I wondered why the water for the rice noodles was standing still and the chicken stir-fry almost cooked. Both items were started together. Yeah, cute Leanne checking to see that the correct burner is on. Well a burner was on, why then was the water not heating up?

TICK TICK TICK… CLICK! Crickey, the front burner must be on.

The one with the Cutting board over it. (Dearest Roommate if you’re reading this, your board is no more, however I want you to know that while you were away I laundered your towels and took care of your cat like she was my own child). 

So I tried to slide the cutting board off the stove. Big mistake… ok MISTAKE-S. 

Mistake 1: I tried to slide the board off with my bare hands when there were perfectly handy kitchen towels nearby. 

- So not only could the house have been burned but I could have suffered burns. 

Do you know what happens to plastic when it burns? It melts. You know how melted cheese sticks onto a burger? Imagine how plastic sears into your skin. 

(FYI: I’ve worked at a plastics recycling company for a few year’s and a quick off site way to test what type of plastic you’re buying is to burn a small piece and study the way it melts- so I’ve had a few searing situations come my way) 

Mistake 2: I did not turn off the Heat. 

Mistake 3: Upon seeing the puffs of smoke, I should have thought of the old adage WHERE THERE’S SMOKE THERE’S USUALLY FIRE

So, fiery flames followed. 

Mistake 4: Screaming. Panic is not a good way to treat a bad situation. Rash decisions often lead to avoidable calamity. 

Then a blinding flash. Thank Goodness! One of those fire safety lessons came back to me. When dealing with flames at a stove, throw baking soda on it – Well my baking soda was a teeny little box and the time to locate it would roughly be the same amount of time needed to reduce the kitchen to cinders. Flames need oxygen to grow, take away the oxygen by throwing a few kitchen towels onto it. Yes, I know this sounds like you’re only going to be adding fuel to the flames for them to feed off of. But your towel/blanket needs to be big enough to smother the flame out. No, paper towels are not the same. Paper towels are tinder, not smothering material. 

(Dear Roommate remember when I said we should get the industrial size baking soda and you made the argument ‘how much baking are you really planning to do Leanne?’) 

So in no time the flames were smothered out. Phew… 

Shock is what follows. I don’t know what else to call the shaking, wide eyed, dry throat gulping moments that followed and the prayers of thanks for giving me one more day to live.

Here are a few statistics from a stovetop fire survey taken in 2006: 

Cooking is the number 1 ignition source when it comes to residential fires that could have been prevented.

99% of these fires occurred in the kitchen
76 % were Stove top fires.

A plastic object catching alight on a stovetop is only the cause of the fire a measly 5% of the time. Oil/grease is the first object ignited when a fire occurs while cooking. The number 1 reason for why the person cooking caused the fire is leaving the stove unattended. Turning on the wrong burner like I did only accounts for 1.9% of fires. 

How many people attempt to extinguish a fire when it starts? 61%. 3% use a cloth to smother a fire. What is worrying is that 18% of people used water to extinguish the fire. This is dangerous when you’re dealing with an electrical fire or an oil based fire. Water makes things worse because water carries current. This means that the electricity can flow through the water and shock you. When you put water into hot oil the water turns into steam. Pressure builds and spluttering occurs. You’ll very likely be burned and the resulting splashing will spread the fire further. Use a lid to smother the flames instead. Do not carry the pot that is on fire. Heaven’s to Betsy! If the worst case scenario does happen and you do manage to catch alight. Remember to STOP, DROP and ROLL to extinguish the flames. 

Here are a few Helpful Safety tips:

  1. Keep the stovetop and counters clean.
  2. Pot holders and tea towels need to be in easy reach.
  3. Keep curtains and other things (like chopping boards) well away from the stovetop.
  4. Test your smoke and fire alarm detector regularly. There needs to be an alarm on each level of your home.
  5. Clear all exit points in your home of furniture and clutter.
  6. Do not wrap electrical cords around an appliance while they are still hot. Ladies this is particularly relevant for hair irons and curlers.
  7. Bathroom appliances: Ever notice how the electrical outlet is always positioned next to the sink in hotel rooms? If even a drop of water finds its way onto the appliance you are using, do not touch it again until you have safely unplugged it from the power source.
  8. Keep electrical cords out of the way of foot traffic. Keeping your cords underneath carpeting may cause damage or fraying to them which in turn could cause a fire. If you absolutely must hide them use durable cord covers or protectors. They are available in a multitude of colors and textures to match your décor.
  9. Do not stick metal objects into an electrical appliance. Yes we’ve all been tempted to fish out that bit of bread that’s gotten stuck in the toaster with the butter knife. Don’t!
  10. Circuit Breaker:
    • IF your circuit breaker trips it is a sign that there is an electrical overload in your home. 
    • Find the cause rather than trying to fix it by substituting a penny or piece of wrapped foil. This is a fire hazard. Switching to a larger fuse can mask any future safety hazards.


DID YOU KNOW? Most insurance companies will not cover damages caused by a residential fire if no fire extinguisher is found on property. As long as one can be found, even unused, they will typically cover the damages. Please check with your insurance underwriter/agent about the fine print in your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy as they differ per state.

Tags:  Kitchen Safety
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