Every year, the US Fire Administration (USFA) runs extensive campaigns that highlight the importance of kitchen fire safety, and they do so for good reason.
According to the USFA, cooking is one of the leading causes of home fires and home fire injuries. A 2021 report states that US fire departments responded to around 170,000 home cooking fires. That year, these fires led to a total of 135 deaths alongside 3,000 injuries and around $500 million in property loss.
Fire accidents are preventable only if you’re a little careful. If a fire does break out despite all precautions, you can always extinguish it. But you need to know how to do so properly, and that’s exactly what we’re about to discuss in this article.
Here are a few tips for extinguishing almost all types of kitchen fires:
#1 Keep Calm and Act Swiftly
The first and most important tip is to stay calm and act swiftly instead of panicking. The moment you notice a fire in your kitchen, your immediate response should be to evacuate everyone from the area and call emergency services. If you feel confident in handling the fire, proceed with the following tips. However, never hesitate to prioritize your safety and that of others.
#2 Understand Fire Extinguisher Types and Usage
Fire extinguishers are mainly of five types. These are:
- Class A: For ordinary combustible materials like wood and paper.
- Class B: For flammable liquids such as oil and grease.
- Class C: For electrical fires.
- Class D: For combustible metals like magnesium, titanium, and sodium.
- Class K: For kitchen fires involving fats, oils, and cooking appliances.
Around your kitchen, preferably right outside it, have a Class K extinguisher. Class B and C extinguishers should also be available inside your house or building compound.
When choosing a fire extinguisher, make sure the brand or manufacturer you opt for doesn’t use harmful forever chemicals in their products like aqueous film-forming foam or AFFF.
This type of toxic firefighting foam has been used to extinguish large fires by firefighters, military personnel, and industrial workers for years now. Recently, thanks to the class-action firefighting foam lawsuit, it was revealed to the public that AFFF can cause cancer, including kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and prostate cancer. Since then, several AFFF lawsuits have been filed, and the victims are seeking compensation for the damages they have suffered because of AFFF exposure.
According to TorHoerman Law, those who were exposed to such types of foam from specific brands and developed cancer or other health issues are eligible to file a lawsuit. In most cases, it’s been found that Class B AFFF is the type of firefighting foam most responsible for causing such health problems, which is also used for kitchen fires. Therefore, if you’re buying a fire extinguisher, make sure it doesn’t use such chemicals.
#3 Know How to Deal With Different Types of Fire
For grease fires, never try to extinguish them with water. This could lead to a rapid spread of the fire. Instead, you should use a metal lid and cover the pan to smother the flames. Sprinkling a generous amount of baking soda will also help. You can also use a class B extinguisher if you have access to one.
Electrical fires pose a unique challenge as water conducts electricity, creating a dangerous situation. In the event of an electrical fire, immediately cut off the power source if possible. Utilize a Class C fire extinguisher to smother the flames without risking electrocution.
If a fire extinguisher is not available, use a dry chemical powder such as baking soda or a non-flammable blanket to suffocate the fire.
#4 Know How to Handle Oven and Microwave Fires
Oven and microwave fires can occur due to overheating, malfunctioning components, or food debris.
In case of an oven fire, do the following:
- Turn off the heat
- Keep the door of the oven closed to deny the flames access to additional oxygen
- Use an extinguisher to put out the fire
For a microwave fire, do the following:
- Unplug the microwave
- Make sure the appliance door is closed and block access to additional oxygen
- If the fire still persists, use a fire extinguisher to extinguish it
#5 Practice Proper Stove Safety
Stove fires are a common occurrence, often caused by unattended cooking or flammable materials left too close to the burners.
To prevent stove fires, always remain in the kitchen while cooking and keep flammable items, such as dish towels and paper products, at a safe distance from the burners. If a small fire ignites on the stove, turn off the heat source and cover the flames with a lid or use a fire extinguisher.
#6 Regular Maintenance and Smoke Detectors
Prevention is key to avoiding kitchen fires. Regularly clean your stove, oven, and exhaust hood to remove grease and food buildup that could fuel a fire. Ensure your smoke detectors are in working order by testing them monthly and replacing batteries at least twice a year.
Smoke detectors provide an early warning system, allowing you to respond swiftly to a fire and potentially prevent it from escalating.
Kitchen fires are alarming and can turn fatal within the blink of an eye. However, as long as you stay calm and know what to do, things will never go out of hand, and you can extinguish the flames yourself without having to call 911.
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