The kitchen, the place of burnt toast and endless hot beverages. The home hub, where friends and families come together to enjoy good food and discuss the activities of the day. However, there are several fire hazards in the kitchen that you and your family should be aware of. Are you suitably prepared with the right fire equipment in your home? Do you have a working smoke alarm or gloves and fire retardant mask available to hand? Armed with a knowledge of the potential risks, the best fire safety equipment, and what to do in the event of a fire, you can continue to enjoy the joys of the beating heart of the home.
Kitchen fires caused by cooking appliances are by far the greatest cause of the ignition of accidental fires in the UK, accounting for 48% in 2019/20 [source].
The Grenfell Tower disaster which took the lives of 72 victims in June 2017 which is discussed in a recent article was sadly also started with a kitchen fire through a faulty appliance. Some fires remain inevitable but as adults, we should be pro-active in educating our family. This includes teaching young children about the dangers of fires now, to prevent the worst from occurring in future.
Prevention of kitchen fires
A few simple tips should be followed to help prevent fires in the kitchen
1. Take caution with hot oil.
Oil is a fuel, and when heated too much it will catch alight in the presence of oxygen. Any sudden movement of the pan will cause an increased amount of oxygen and will increase the size of the flame. If the pan catches fire, switch off the source of heat and carefully cover the pan with the lid to cut off the oxygen. If the flames are too high, activate your fire evacuation procedure.
2. Do not walk away from the heat.
If you are cooking, stay with it! Don’t walk-off. Not supervising the pans whilst they are heating is a hazard with a severe risk of fire. Once you have walked away, it is so easy to forget the toast under the grill or the oil heating up in the frying pan. A fire will inevitably start when you are not around. If not seen, the flames will seek out and ravage any combustible object in its path. Before you know it you will have a monster on your hands. If you leave the kitchen, switch off the heat!
3. Keep your cooking area clean and free from clutter.
Kitchen roll, tea towels, and other flammable items should be nowhere near a heat source. This includes the empty open plastic wrap that came with the vegetables. Clear away any clutter as you go along. Remove spoons from the pans and clean off the grease after use as these will catch. A fire, once ignited, is hungry and it will seek out to quell that hunger steadily growing in strength and size until before you know it, you are calling 999.
4. Keep children away from the oven and hob.
Children are naturally curious, they want to know what you are doing and what is going on. Small children will reach up to hot pans. Older children will hang around near the flames where the cooking smells have enticed them and stimulated their hunger pangs. Ensure you are careful by turning pan handles inwards and NEVER leave children alone with the heat source. If you are lucky enough to have a master chef in the making and they are the ones doing the cooking, make sure you stick around. Even if they are competent with the heat source, are they competent if a fire ignites?
5. Stay off the alcohol
It can be tempting to have a glass of wine whilst cooking – why not? Even the chefs on TV do it! But avoid it as you should always stay alert whilst cooking. If you love to add a dash of alcohol to your food then ensure you are well prepared for a kitchen fire and that there is nothing lying close to the hob that can catch.
6. Think about clothing
Clothing is highly flammable. If you have loose sleeves next to a heat source it will ignite very easily and spread rapidly. Be sensible and wear suitable clothing whilst cooking.
7. Deep fat fry with care
One of the riskiest items to use in the kitchen is the deep fat fryer. We are a lover of chips in the UK, but the oil required needs to be very hot! This screams fire hazard. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use the equipment safely and do not use it if there are any signs of a fault.
Always remember to be prepared. No matter how much you go out of your way to prevent a fire accidents can and do happen. Follow some simple guidance on fire prevention.
If the worst does happen, ensure you have the best fire safety mask to prevent toxic smoke inhalation and other vital equipment available to hand and functioning to help you and your loved ones with your evacuation procedure.