Fires in the Kitchen

Seven thousand people are injured in kitchen fires each year and that doesn’t include the people who are killed. Don’t be one of them, know what to do and what not to do in the kitchen.

Nearly two thirds of all domestic fires happen because of cooking. The kitchen is the single most dangerous place in your home, and time and time again it is the same problems that cause fires. If you know about those problems, the chances are you will be less likely to have a fire in your kitchen.This section covers how to keep safe while cooking, plus what to do if a fire starts in your kitchen.

Making the Kitchen Safe

Steps you should take to make the kitchen a safe place.

Cooker

  • Keep electrical leads from trailing over or going near the cooker.
  • Don’t hang tea towels or cloths on or over the cooker.
  • Keep the oven, hob and grill clean. A build-up of fat and bits of food can start a fire.

Microwave

  • Don’t put anything metallic inside the microwave.
  • Don’t dry clothes in the microwave.

Electrical

  • Keep electrical leads away from water.
  • Don’t put a plant pot or anything wet on top of an electrical appliance.
  • Check the toaster is clean and well away from curtains.
  • Don’t overload sockets; one plug per socket is the rule, especially if the appliance takes a lot of power (like a kettle).
  • Don’t run extension cables across the floor as they can become worn.

Electrical appliances

  • Electrical appliances especially those that work at high speeds, such as the washing machine – should be serviced each year.
  • Don’t leave appliances such as washing machines or dishwashers on at night.
  • Is the kettle leaking? This can be dangerous.

Ventilation

  • Make sure your ventilation is working properly and not blocked up, especially if you have a gas cooker.

Protection

  • Buy a smoke alarm fitted with a “hush button” so if it goes off accidentally you can silence it instantly. That way you won’t be tempted to remove the battery, except to change it for a new one. If your alarm keeps going off unnecessarily you may need to move it further away from the kitchen.

Cooking Safely

  • The most important point about cooking is to avoid being distracted. Most kitchen fires occur when people leave things unattended.
  • If you’re called away from the cooker by the phone or by someone at the door, take pans off the heat. It’s the easiest thing in the world to forget about them.
  • Don’t cook if you’re affected by alcohol or prescription drugs.
  • Turn saucepan handles so they don’t stick out where they can be accidentally knocked, and aren’t over another hot ring.
  • Keep the oven door shut.
  • Don’t put oven gloves or tea towels down on the cooker after you’ve used them.
  • Always clean the grill pan after using it.

Deep Fat Frying

Deep fat fryers fires cause one fifth of all accidental dwelling fires attended by the Fire and Rescue Service in the UK each year. About twenty people are killed or injured every day in accidental fires that start in their kitchen, the most common of these are caused by deep fat frying. If you do choose to use a deep fat fryer, make sure you do it safely.

Think about what you’re doing when you’re deep fat frying remember you are heating several pints of oil to extremely high temperatures. The oil can cause terrible burns and go up in flames. In fact, it’s an ideal fuel for a fire, and difficult to put out.

A few tips:

  • Never fill a deep fat fryer more than a third full of oil.
  • The safest way to deep fry is to use a thermostat-controlled electric deep fat fryer. Its thermostat stops it from overheating, better still choose oven chips.
  • Never leave your cooking unattended. Even if the phone or doorbell rings. Remember, fires start when your attention stops.
  • Dry your food in a clean tea towel before putting it in the fryer this is because water can make the oil erupt violently.
  • Test the temperature with a small piece of bread or potato. If it crisps quickly, the oil is too hot so turn off the heat and leave it to cool.
  • If there are flames, never throw water over the pan it will erupt violently spreading the fire.
  • If you’ve consumed alcohol, do not be tempted to cook with a chip pan.

Dealing with a Fire in the Kitchen

The Fire Service usually recommends that if you have a fire in the kitchen, don’t take any risks, get everyone out of your home and call the Fire and Rescue Service. If you’re not sure you can handle the fire or if it is spreading from its starting point then it is almost certainly already too big and you should leave the building. If you cannot deal with the fire, close the door on the way out, and call 999.

If it is a deep fat fryer

  • If a pan of food or chip pan catches fire do not attempt to remove from the stove, it could give you terrible burns if incorrectly handled.
  • Turn off the heat if it is safe to do so, but never lean over the pan to the controls, switch off the supply at the meter if necessary.
  • Never throw water over it.
  • Don’t use a general fire extinguisher on a pan filled with oil or fat. The ONLY fire extinguishers safe for deep fat fryers are wet chemical extinguishers, special ABF classed extinguishers and ‘dry’ water mist extinguishers! Never use traditional foam or powder extinguishers on burning fat or oil.
  • If you use wet chemical extinguishers, make sure you empty the entire content of the extinguisher on the oil, even if the flames have been doused already! This prevents re-ignition.
  • Leave the pan to cool completely.
  • Dial 999 and call the Fire and Rescue Service

If electric appliances are involved

  • Pull the plug out or switch off power at the fuse box. This may stop the fire immediately.
  • Smother the fire with a fire blanket, or use a carbon dioxide extinguisher if available. ‘Dry’ water mist extinguishers and foams can be used as well if they have been tested to 35kV.
  • Dial 999 and call the Fire and Rescue Service

Fire Extinguishers for the Home

There are two schools of thought on whether you should provide fire extinguishers in the home. One says do not attempt to extinguish a fire, get out and call out the fire and rescue service. This view considers an untrained person cannot and should not tackle a fire but it is also tempered by the thought of litigations if anybody gets hurt in tackling a fire. The other says it is up to the individual and if they consider themselves capable they should have a go. This view is supported by national statistics which reported some time ago up to 47% of fires are not reported to the Fire and Rescue Service which would suggest the fires were extinguished by the occupants.

Taking the views of the two groups above. If you fall into the second group and would wish to purchase fire extinguishers for the home. Your choice is dependent on how capable you consider yourself and if you are able to afford them. There are two choices of extinguishers that seem to be acceptable by most and a third choice which is more contentious.

  • First option is a domestic fire blanket and sited it in the kitchen or close to the kitchen in a line of exit. This must be your first choice as it can be used in many situations.
  • A second option is to install specialist kitchen extinguisher which can be safely used on fat fryers etc. There are three groups of kitchen extinguishers a) ABF rated chemical extinguishers¬† b) AF rated water mist¬† c) wet chemical.¬† Considering the costs of a wet chemical and the clean up required afterwards, the water mist extinguishers (also called dry water mist) is probablythe best choice in a home kitchen. Commercial kitchens will usually opt for wet chemical extinguishers.


fire blanket
water mist extinguishers


If you do purchase fire extinguishers make sure you read and fully understand the instructions. If necessary look for training on the use of extinguishers by fire experts.

All fire fighting equipment should be in accordance with the appropriate British Standard Specification and carry the kite mark.