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Use Caution with Kitchen Appliances

October 7, 2011

The fire investigators brought this one back a couple of weeks ago.  It was a fire in the kitchen of a single-family residence.  The fire originated in the area of the toaster.  Careful scene examination and reconstruction revealed that burned debris over and around the toaster had been boxes of Pop-Tarts.  The toaster was plugged in and the toaster handle was pushed down.  Debris on top of the toaster handle turned out to be Pop-Tart wrappers.

Interviews with the homeowners confirmed the investigators’ suspicions.  After the last trip to Costco, the groceries were placed in the kitchen.  A large collection of Pop-Tarts were stored in a location readily available for use; on and around the toaster.  As Pop-Tarts were needed, they were taken from the boxes on the toaster, toasted and eaten.  It appears that one or more packages of Pop-Tarts slipped out of the box and onto the toaster handle, holding it down continuously.  Eventually the heat from the toaster ignited the box lying on top of the toaster and a kitchen fire ensued.

National fire data shows that kitchens are the number one location for fires that cause injuries.  Several things should be borne in mind here.

First of all, keep combustibles away from anything that gets hot: stove, toaster, coffee maker, espresso machine, tea kettle, etc.  Even if that item is not hot now, it was designed to get hot and will do so on the next use.  So keep that appliance clear of combustibles.  And before you fire up the appliance, check it to ensure you won’t have a fire.  We often find the newspaper laying on the stove (one time it was Tupperware).  Well it wasn’t hot at the time they laid the newspaper there.  But whoever turned the stove on, didn’t check either and the paper caught fire.

Also, remember that if you leave kitchen appliances plugged in, they’re ready to go.  All you need is for someone to bump the wrong switch and the appliance is running.  At my house, we unplug counter-top appliances that are not in use:  toaster, coffee maker, etc.  If you’re not using it right now, it doesn’t need electrical current.  That may also reduce the amount of electricity your kitchen uses because many newer appliances use current 24/7 to light the “power off” indicator.

Unplugging counter-top appliances when not in use is extra work, but it would have kept the Pop-Tarts from catching fire.

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From → Fire Prevention

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