Cooking Up Kitchen Safety

Unattended cooking remains the leading cause of U.S. home fires


NORTHBROOK, Ill., USA, Nov. 19, 2003 --Leaving an unattended skillet sizzling on the stove is a good way to burn your breakfast, not to mention the chance of burning down your kitchen.

According to statistics, 30 percent of all reported home fires start in the kitchen, and of those, most involve the range-top.  That is why Underwriters Laboratories and the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers are teaming up over the holiday season to spread the word about prevention of cooking fires. "The sad truth is that in nearly 75 percent of reported home fires, especially those originating in the kitchen, the person responsible for the fire was not in the area when it started,” says Barbara Guthrie, director of Consumer Affairs at Underwriters Laboratories. “UL and AHAM urge everyone to pay attention to what’s cooking during the busy holiday season.”

The two not-for-profit organizations and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offer these tips to help prevent kitchen fires this holiday season:

  • Supervision is key. Never leave cooking food on the stovetop unattended and regularly check food cooking inside the oven.
  • Get in the zone. Keep children and pets away from cooking area by creating a 3-foot safety zone around the stove.
  • Keep away from the heat. To reduce the chances of bumping pots and pans and spilling their contents, turn panhandles in, but away from hot elements and burners.
  • It’s not a closet. Never use the oven for storage. The oven can be turned on – burning or damaging the items stored inside.
  • Keep it clean. Keep the cooking area clean and clear of anything that can burn – towels, potholders, drapes, food packaging, etc.
  • It’s made for food. Only use the oven for its intended use. Never use it to heat a room.
  • Roll ‘em up. Make it a point to wear short, close fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto burners and catch fire.
  • Too hot to handle?Use thick, dry, flame-resistant potholders when handling lids and pans. A wet potholder or oven mitt presents a scald danger if the moisture becomes heated.
  • Protect your valuables. When removing pot and pan lids, tilt them away from you to protect your face and hands from steam.
  • Keep a cool head. In the event of a range-top fire, put on an oven mitt and smother the flames by turning off the burner and carefully sliding a lid onto the pan. Leave the lid in place until well cooled. Never carry the pan outside.
  • Water and grease don’t mix! Never use water or flour on a grease fire. Doing so can shoot burning grease around the kitchen, actually spreading the fire.
  • Use the right tools. If you’re familiar with using a multi-purpose fire extinguisher, keep one handy in the event of a grease fire. Inexperienced users, however, can spread the fire. Make sure you know how to properly use a multi-purpose fire extinguisher.
  • Prevent flame spread. If you have an oven fire, immediately turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flame spread.
  • Call for help. If you can’t extinguish the fire yourself, leave your home, call 9-1-1, and wait in a safe place until emergency personnel arrive.
  • Life-safety devices a must. Make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home. Never disable smoke alarms and check them regularly.
  • Escape plans for everyone. Develop a fire escape plan with family members and make sure all family members know at least two ways out of the home.
  • Get out and stay out. Never return to a burning building for any reason. Belongings can be replaced, lives can’t!