Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, and a significant contributor to home fire deaths and injuries, according to State Fire Marshal Richard Miller. Two of every five home fires start in the kitchen, more than any other place in the home.
"Public awareness about kitchen fires is so important because of the loss of life, serious injuries and property damage,” Miller said in a written statement. “Kitchen fires are the most common and difficult type of fire to suppress because people tend to panic. They tend to pour water on it but it will only make the fire bigger. It is a different type of fire that takes a different approach to extinguish.”
In 2012, home fires killed more than 58 people in Michigan. Fire departments throughout the state responded to 15,256 home fires, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System.
Cooking equipment, heating and electrical equipment, smoking materials and lit candles are among the leading causes of all reported home fires.
The following are a few safety tips to prevent kitchen fires:
- Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling food.
- Turn off the stove if you must leave the kitchen even for a short period of time.
- If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly and set a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
- When you cook, wear clothing with tight-fitting sleeves.
- Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
- If you have young children, use the stove’s back burners whenever possible. Keep kids at least three feet away from the stove.
- Clean up food and grease from burners and stovetops.
- Keep a fully charged fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen and be prepared to use it in an emergency.
If you have a kitchen fire:
• Keep a lid nearby when you're cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.• For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
• Call 911 to alert the fire department.
• Just get out. When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
According to Miller, nearly two-thirds of home structure fire deaths occur in homes where there is no smoke alarm or where smoke alarms are present but fail to operate because the batteries have been removed.
Having working smoke alarms cuts the risk of dying in reported home fires in half, and having automatic fire sprinkler systems in the home cuts the risk of dying in a home fire by about 80 percent.
“Many homes still have only one smoke alarm and that is simply not enough,” Miller said. “There should be working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom and in the basement.”
Miller recommends installing the 10-year lithium battery-powered smoke alarm that is sealed and cannot be tampered with, and the newer, interconnected smoke alarms that offer the best protection. Smoke alarms should be tested at least once a month using the test button and the batteries replaced every year.
“It’s also so important to have a home fire escape plan and practice it because fire is unpredictable and moves fast,” Miller explained. “You may have only seconds to escape. In less than three minutes, your home could be totally engulfed in flames, so every family member should know how to react quickly and calmly."
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), less than 25 percent of American households have developed and practiced a fire escape plan to be prepared for an emergency.