Fighting Kitchen Fires Safely

Despite keeping a well maintained kitchen and staying attentive, kitchen fires can happen.  How can you deal with a kitchen fire safely, and how do you know when to call 911?

First of all Stay. In. The. Kitchen. You can often tell when a pan is getting too hot before it reaches a crisis point. It will start to smoke and smell scorched. Get it off the heat by sliding it off the burner. Just getting it off the burner can stop a fire before it starts. Don’t toss it in the sink, the grease may splatter on you giving you nasty burns on your face and arms. And dent or chip the sink.

For that matter, when you put food in the pan, lay it in gently.  Have you ever had bacon splatter on you? Multiply that… Ow. I remember my mother getting second degree burns on her face by tossing a steak into an overly greased frying pan. The grease splattered, and she had big blisters come up on her eyelids and cheeks. She had to go to the ER for treatment. Grease burns are nothing to fool with.

If you get burned, use cool running water, not ice.

In Case of Fire:

  • Turn off the source of heat
  • Slap a tight lid on the pot. The lack of oxygen will smother it.
  • Have a big box of baking soda or plain old table salt always at hand. Either one can smother a grease fire
  • Don’t try to carry the burning pot outside, especially if it’s full of grease that can slosh on you or leave a trail of fire out the door.
  • Never throw water or flour on a fire in the kitchen, as it will explode.
  • Don’t hesitate to call 911. That’s why they are there.
Kitchen Fire Basics: Slide on a tight-fitting lid. Turn off the heat source. Don't try to carry the pot somewhere else to put it out, it could burn you and spread the flames. Use baking soda or salt to put out the fire. Never throw water on a kitchen fire. Call 911 if it's too big.Boss-Support | Adult Like a Boss

If The Fire is Spreading Remember the 3As

  • Activate the alarm,
  • Assist those in the immediate vicinity to escape, and only after that
  • Attempt to fight the fire.
If a fire has gotten too big to knock down easily, pretty much what you can do is hit the alarm and warn everyone, call 911, and run like a bunny.

Only fight a fire if:

  • The fire is small and contained
  • You are safe from toxic smoke
  • You have a means of escape
  • Your trained instincts tell you it’s OK

This video from CBS with the help of State Farm shows both safe and unsafe ways to deal with kitchen fires, as well as some basics on fire extinguisher use.

Pretty scary what can happen if you throw even a small amount of water on, isn’t it? It’s because the fire is already so hot that it vaporizes the water into steam, and that vaporization works as an explosion, spreading the grease and the flames.

Fires need fuel and oxygen to burn. If you take away either of those, the fire will go out.

Remember, if you choose to buy an extinguisher, get an ABC extinguisher like this one. (That is an  affiliate link that costs you nothing extra but supports the site.)

You can also buy a K extinguisher specifically for grease fires, but they’re usually designed for commercial purposes and are pretty big and expensive. Unless you’re doing regular deep fat frying, you probably can get by with soda, salt, or an ABC type. Of course, if you’re one of those guys who loves turkey fryers, maybe you should invest … or at least keep from frying the turkey anywhere near your house or on a wood deck.

All these warnings are not intended to make you scared to go in the kitchen or of cooking, but I do want you to think ahead about what can go wrong so that it won’t.

Have you ever had a kitchen fire or close call? What did you do?

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