The kitchen is one of the most common sources of home fires, and cooking fires are the most expensive to repair.
The average cooking fires ends up costing more than $30,000, which is four times higher than the next most expensive type of homeowner’s claim, according to a new study by Nationwide Insurance. Most kitchen fires occur in the month of March, followed by April, December, October and May.
During the five-year period from 2013 to 2017, some 173,200 home fires started in U.S. kitchens, according to the National Fire Protection Association’s “2019 Home Structure Fires” report. Each year, these fires:
- Caused 550 deaths
- Caused 5,020 injuries
- Resulted in $479 million of direct property damage
- Accounted for 40% of home fire injuries and 15% of the direct property damage.
With those numbers in mind, you should take steps and precautions to make sure you don’t suffer a cooking fire in your own home.
What you can do
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the chances of starting a kitchen fire:
- Always keep what you are cooking in sight, and never leave the stove unattended.
- Stay alert when cooking, particularly with oil. Know the warning signs of when a fire might start. Cooking oil smokes to give us a warning as it approaches its auto-ignition point of roughly 750 degrees. If you see smoke coming from your oil, shut off the heat and remove the pan from the stove immediately.
- Keep things that can catch fire away from heat.
- Have a fire escape plan. Know two ways out.
- Keep children and pets away from the cooking area.
- Always install and use cooking appliances as per directions.
- Have working smoke alarms.
What to do if you have a cooking fire
Despite your best efforts, a fire can start in your kitchen. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:
- Never grab a burning pan.
- Never use water on a grease fire. A little cup of water will send the flaming oil spraying through the kitchen, and possibly even over you.
- In case of a grease fire, grab an oven mitt and a tight-fitting cover, slide the cover right over the side and turn the stove off. Leave it for 10 to 20 minutes. If there is no cover close by, use a cookie sheet.
- In case of an oven fire, immediately close the oven door and turn the appliance off. If the fire doesn’t go out right away, call the fire department. Have the oven inspected and repaired before you use it again.
A word about fire extinguishers
Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen. Get one that’s labeled as safe to use on any kind of fire, and keep it within easy reach.
If a fire starts:
- Point the extinguisher toward the base of the fire.
- Holding it by the handle, press down on the lever on the fire extinguisher; just let go when you want to stop.
- Spray horizontally back and forth across the fire until it’s extinguished, remembering to aim low.
The secret weapon
Baking soda is an important ingredient in any kitchen, and not just for baking cookies. If a fire breaks out on an electric stovetop or if you don’t have anything available to smother a grease fire, grab a box of baking soda and pour it generously on the flames.
Baking soda will help to extinguish a small fire, but you may need several boxes of it.
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