The Safety.com Guide on How to Prevent Kitchen Fires

National Fire Prevention Week is celebrated this year from October 4th – October 9th, helping to remind families the importance of preventing fires, especially within the home. This time the theme for Fire Prevention Week is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!™” 

In honor of this, we’re sharing a deep-dive on how to prevent kitchen fires in the home. Here are some things you probably didn’t know statistically about home and kitchen fires.

  • Cooking is the most common cause of home fires and fire-related injuries.
  • About 70% of us have left food unattended in the kitchen.
  • 1 out of 5 home fire victims are between the age of 55 and 64 years old.
  • Most home fires happen during the cooler months.
  • Dinnertime is when home fires tend to occur, between 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • 52% of home fire deaths have been reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

*Statistics are from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

It’s not hard to see how these statistics easily paint a picture of what happens in many American homes. We come home from work, put on dinner for the kids or our spouse, leave the kitchen thinking the food will be alright, and come back to find the kitchen filled with smoke. In some cases, we leave food on and fall asleep without any timer to remind us. 

This can change if we take better steps while cooking in the kitchen.

Causes of Kitchen Fires

It’s not surprising that since more home fires start in the kitchen that cooking materials and food are “the leading items first ignited”, according to the NFPA. Typically, this can happen when we leave cooking food unattended or food handling materials like oven mitts too close to a hot aisle. Here are some additional potential causes of kitchen fires:

  • Having the oven set on too high of a setting–leading food to burn
  • Popping grease or oil
  • Leaving our children unattended in the kitchen–for cooking or allowing them to play in the kitchen

Take Action: 10 Ways to Prevent Kitchen Fires

Now that we’re aware of some of the culprits of kitchen fires, here are a number of ways you can be proactive in preventing them.

Don’t leave the stove unattended

Even if it’s for five minutes, or change the setting to “Low”, you’re still running the risk of food burning and the potential for fire to break out. Remember, even in those five minutes something unexpected–such as your child or pet–can take your mind away from cooking.

Don’t leave children unattended in the kitchen

Consider setting up “no-play” zones for the kids. We know how curious they can be, but explain to them for their safety that they should not play in the kitchen. If they’re hungry, tell them to let you know so that you can prepare the food for them. For older and more mature children, teach them about best practices while in the kitchen so that they’re prepared to respond in the event of emergencies.

Make sure the stovetop is free of debris and food prep materials

A good rule of thumb to remember before preparing food is to make sure the stovetop is clean, and move any food prep materials off the stove to the side. This way, you’ll lessen the chance for utensils catching fire.

Set a timer while preparing food

Does your stove have a built-in timer? Or do you have a nifty Pomodoro timer on hand? Create a new habit by setting a timer every time you prepare food. If you’re using an online timer or your phone, make sure the volume is set so you’ll hear it.

Don’t throw water on a grease fire

Water will only aggravate a grease fire, causing it to splash and potentially make the fire worse. Instead, grab a lid and cover the fire to smother it out. 

Consider having a fire extinguisher on hand

You’ll first want to make sure you understand how to properly use a fire extinguisher and purchase the correct type. For homes, A-B-C fire extinguishers are recommended as they can put out these three classes of fires (combustible materials, flammable liquids, and electrical fires). Make sure you still have a way of escape in case the fire can’t be brought under control and call 911.

Only use microwave-safe products in the microwave

You probably heard as a kid not to put metal in the microwave. Only use microwave-safe containers and products in the microwave. Using metal in a microwave can cause a fire because the molecules inside metal cannot move around as the molecules in food and beverages, which causes them to heat up.

Make sure your smoke detectors are working properly

According to The American Red Cross, 65% of people do not test their smoke alarm once per month. If you notice any chirps, it might be time to change the batteries or completely replace the unit.There a number of affordable battery-operated and wired smoke detectors that are available.

Avoid loose-fitting clothes while cooking

Lessen any chances of singing your clothes or having them catch on fire by wearing well-fitting clothes. Opt for short sleeves or roll up any long-sleeved tops while cooking. If you wear an apron, make sure any ties or frill are kept back or tucked away.

Don’t cook while under the influence

While you might be tempted to show off your cooking skills to friends during a party or after a night out and a few drinks, you can make misjudgments while cooking under the influence. 

How to Put Out a Kitchen Fire

In the event you do have a kitchen fire, it’s important to know what type of fire you’re dealing with so that you better understand how to put it out. The most common fire you’re bound to run into in the kitchen is a grease fire. While less common, electrical fires can happen as well.

How to Put Out a Grease Fire

In the event you have a grease fire in the kitchen, the first thing you’ll want to do is grab a lid or even a cookie sheet and place it over the pan. Turn off the aisle and leave the lid or cookie sheet in place for about 15 to 20 minutes to allow the pan to cool. Never ever throw water over a grease fire and resist the temptation to take the pot outside, as the fire could potentially burn you.

How to Put Out an Electrical Fire

Faulty wiring and older appliances could lead to an electrical fire in the kitchen. As with a grease fire, you should never use water to extinguish an electrical fire. In this case, having an A-B-C fire extinguisher on hand would be very helpful as it can put out most household fires. 

If you don’t have one on hand, try keeping a few boxes of baking soda on hand. The sodium bicarbonate in baking soda is found in Class C fire extinguishers which are designed specifically for electrical fires. Tossing baking soda onto the flames can work to extinguish them.

Show Us How You’re Serving Up Safety in the Kitchen

Are you following best practices in the kitchen? Let us know by tagging us on Twitter or Facebook @thesafetycom and using the hashtag #CookingUpSafety. We’d love to hear from you!


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Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of Safety.com's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on Today.com and elsewhere.