According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), cooking is the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. In fact, as of 2015 (the last year data was available), kitchen fires accounted for 47 percent of all residential fires. And here’s a statistic that’s even more troubling: From 2006 to 2015, home cooking fires increased 21 percent.*
Why the jump in cooking-related incidents? Unattended cooking is the primary factor, according to the USFA. Frying with oil is the next biggest. And – no surprise here – Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires.
Stay alert in the kitchen and stay safe. Follow these 10 tips from the American Red Cross to avoid cooking fires in your home:
- Never leave the kitchen while cooking, especially if you’re frying, grilling, boiling or broiling. Need to go to the bathroom, peek in on a child in another room or catch your favorite TV show? Turn off the stove.
- Check pots on the stovetop or pans in the oven regularly, and use a timer to remind you to keep an eye on what you’re cooking. Use two to be doubly safe.
- Wear close-fitting clothes while cooking. Avoid loose tops and dangling sleeves.
- Keep kids out of the kitchen while you’re cooking or a minimum of three feet from the stove.
- Keep a safe distance between oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels or any flammable item and anything in the kitchen that generates heat.
- Keep cooking surfaces clean to prevent grease buildup.
- Keep lids for pans within reach. If food in a pan catches fire, slide the lid over it to smother the fire and turn off the burner. Leave the pan covered until it’s completely cooled. Never remove the lid, or the fire could reignite. And never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on it. The same applies to an oven fire. Just turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
- Make sure your stovetop, oven and small appliances are turned off before going to bed or leaving your home.
- Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. And never, ever disable smoke alarms while cooking.
- If you do have a kitchen fire, don’t try to fight it yourself. In over 50 percent of reported cases of non-fatal home cooking fire injuries, the victims attempted to fight the fire.
The smartest move in the event of a kitchen fire: Get out! Close the door behind you to help contain the fire. And call 9-1-1 or your local fire department immediately.
For more information on how to prevent home fires, download the Red Cross Fire Prevention and Safety Checklist.