With the holidays comes the traditional holiday foods, and home kitchens see increased activity with all the roasting turkeys and baking pies. Along with the tempting aroma of these holiday favorites comes an increased risk for home fires. According to a National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), the holidays are the peak time for home kitchen fires.
In a NFPA survey, fire companies across the nation reported they had responded to 386,000 residential fires in 2011. NFPA data from 2010 reveals that nearly half of residential fires were caused by cooking equipment and cooking related activities, resulting in more than 5,000 injuries and 420 deaths.
The NFPA attributes the majority of kitchen fires to unattended cooking. It is a busy time of year, and the temptation to multi-task, leaving the stove to take care of other chores, often proves to be a mistake. Note that cooking fires most often begin when grease ignites. When broiling, frying or grilling, the cook should turn off the stove before leaving the kitchen, even if just for a few minutes to check on the laundry. While roasting and baking foods can be left unattended, the cook should set a timer as a reminder to check on the food.
Cooking while sleepy, or under the influence of alcohol, is not safe. Cooks should finish in the kitchen before imbibing in the eggnog. Keep combustible materials away from the stove. Dishtowels, food packaging, potholders and loose clothing can ignite and quickly get out of control.
More than half of kitchen fire injuries are caused when homeowners attempt to extinguish the blaze themselves. The safest thing to do when a fire breaks out in the kitchen is to leave the house and call the fire department from a safe location. If the fire is small, and you believe you can contain it, the best method is to smother the flames. Keep a lid on hand to cover a frying pan, and leave the cover on until the pan is cooled. Contain oven fires by turning off the heat and keeping the oven door closed. Do not throw water on a grease fire, that will only cause the grease, and the fire, to spread.
Keeping alert while cooking and following these safety tips will ensure your holiday glow isn’t coming from flames in the kitchen.