At Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America (BRCA), our multidisciplinary approach to burn injuries promotes the best possible outcomes for all patients treated by our nationwide system of burn care providers. While BRCA encourages patients to seek medical attention when an injury occurs, we do our best to educate online and in-person communities on the risks, treatments and preventions of various burns, wounds and skin and soft tissue disorders for better care and recovery.
Common culprits of kitchen fires
According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), 49% of reported home fires from 2015 to 2019 resulted from cooking. As one of the most dangerous areas in the home, the kitchen is where various accidents and injuries can occur. To help combat this problem and raise awareness during National Fire Prevention Week, BRCA is providing helpful tips on all things Kitchen Safety.
Often seen in movies depicting Thanksgiving or Christmas cooking disasters, oven fires can result from human error or debris buildup. While ovens and stoves frequently come equipped with timers, BRCA recommends not leaving the range unattended while food is cooking. This may seem inconvenient, especially when there are other things to be done around the house but staying in the kitchen while cooking in the oven helps you keep an eye on food that may be cooking faster than you thought or hear the timer when it goes off. When the oven is not in use, you want to keep it clean. Buying cheap oven liners can help catch grease runoff or food overflow and make cleaning the oven easy. Food debris, especially grease, left in the bottom of the oven is a fire hazard. If you notice a smoky smell or a puff of smoke when opening the oven door, this may signify debris burning in the bottom of the oven. Smoke may also be a sign of an object that is not meant to be used in the oven. Plastic containers, wood, dinner plates, some glassware and more aren’t safe for the oven. Items safe to go in the oven should explicitly say so on the bottom of the kitchenware or the packaging. If the oven begins to smoke, turn it off, wait for it to cool down and clean the inside of the oven or remove the burnt or melted object.
One of the most common causes of kitchen fires, stove fires, can occur in much the same ways as oven fires: human error and debris buildup. Have you ever left the house wondering if you locked the door? Closed the garage? Left the hair straightener on? Human error is, well…human. When it comes to the stove, it occurs when people accidentally leave the burners on or leave flammable materials too close to the heat. Kitchen towels, paper products, loose clothing and plastic are some fire hazards common to stove-top cooking. It’s important to know which burners are hot and keep flammable objects away from the stove, including clothing. For those with electric or gas ranges where food or grease can slip under the burners, the stovetop and burners should be cleaned often. Grease fires are serious situations that often lead to injuries. Similar to ovens, the burners will begin to smoke if food debris or grease is on or under the burners. If this happens, turn off the burners, wait for the burners to cool down and then clean the burners and drip pan/bowl.
Grease fires are hazardous, leading to severe and life-threatening injuries. When cooking with grease, ensure you do not have more grease in the pan or fryer than is required. An overflow of grease can cause a fire or severe burn injuries. Also, be cautious when frying frozen foods. Water and oil have a negative reaction, and frozen foods may cause grease to bubble over or splatter. Never reuse old grease or oil. Food debris is left in old grease and poses a fire risk when re-heated. Never move hot grease. Instead, wait for it to cool down. Moving hot grease may lead to spills or grease splatters. No matter where you are cooking with oil, outside or in the kitchen, always clean the area when you’re done to reduce the possibility of grease fires.
How to put out an oven fire
When handling an oven fire, the first step is to remain calm. The fire is contained for the moment, giving you time to take action.
- Do not open the oven. Fire grows when exposed to oxygen. Keeping the oven closed will help contain the fire and slow it down.
- If you are able, turn the oven off. This should remove some fuel from the fire and smother it if the oven door is shut tightly.
- Stand away from the oven, especially if it has a glass door.
- Do not open windows or doors to release smoke from the house. Opening windows or doors will fuel the fire if it spreads from the oven. Instead, get low, cover your mouth and nose and crawl to safety, closing doors as you can.
- If the oven does not smother the fire or the fire is already spreading, do not try to fight it. You should only fight fires the size of a small trash can and contained.
- Evacuate the house and call 911. Inform them if any pets are left inside or around the house.
How to put out a kitchen fire on the stove
Depending on the severity of the stove fire and its cause, the following actions can be considered to help limit the damage and prevent injuries.
- Remember, do not use water. Cover it with a lid.
- Turn off the stove if you are able.
- Do not move objects from the stove, as this can cause the fire to spread or further injury.
- Do not attempt to fight a fire that is out of control or larger than a small trash can.
- Use good judgment. If you feel the fire is already out of control, evacuate the house and call for help.
How to put out a kitchen fire involving grease
If there is a kitchen fire involving grease, know the best actions to take to avoid injury, such as:
- Do not move the pot or pan that is on fire. Leave it where it is.
- Do not throw water on a grease fire!
- If you can, turn off the heat source.
- If a metal cookie sheet or lid is nearby, use it to smother the fire; if it is safe, do so.
- If the fire is out of control, get everyone to safety and alert your local authorities.
Preventing kitchen fires
BRCA alone has seen a 47% increase in grease burns since 2019. Of those burns, 11% of the population treated in our nationwide care system involved pediatric patients. With this in mind, here are some tips to help avoid grease injuries or fires in the kitchen:
- Create a three-to-five-foot area around where you’re cooking and instruct children not to enter that area.
- Even with a safety zone around the oven, turn pot handles toward the back of the stove when cooking and out of reach of children.
- Do not overfill the pan with cooking oil. Overfilling the pan can cause grease to spill out and come into contact with the burners, which can start a fire.
- Frozen foods can be fried, but it is not recommended! Water and ice can cause hot grease to splatter.
- Always be alert, sober and present when cooking or frying.
- Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes.
- Make sure your kitchen has a working fire extinguisher.
- Consider using a safer alternative to a grease fryer, such as an air fryer.
- Once you have finished cooking, ensure all appliances are turned off before leaving the kitchen unattended.
- Be aware of where you lay kitchen towels, oven mitts or other flammable objects. These should be placed far away from the stovetop.
- If you have a gas oven/stove/range, ensure the gas is turned off every time, or keep a carbon monoxide detector in the kitchen to catch gas leaks before they turn into a tragedy.
For more information about fire safety or thermal burns, please visit our website at www.burncenters.com. If you are suffering from a thermal injury, please don’t wait to seek help. Call our experts 24/7 at (855) 863-9595 for your non-emergent needs. For emergencies, please call 911.
For more information on thermal burns, please click here.
For information on how to create a home fire escape plan, click here.
For information on fire safety tips for kids, please click here.
To watch a home fire survival and recovery story, please click here.