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How To Deal With Stove-Top Fires

July 10, 2012

We have an interesting video today regarding stove-top cooking fires.  These fires are very common and very preventable.  There are some interesting things to bear in mind if your cooking catches fire on the stove top:

Cause

 In most cases, stove top fires occur when cooking oil reaches its auto-ignition temperature.  That temperature varies from product to product.  Cooking oils can ignite from 520°F up to 670°F.  Whatever cooking oil product you’re using, if it catches fire, it got too hot.

What do you do?

  1. Sound an alarm and call 911.  We don’t mind showing up to a fire that is already out.  Seconds count when a fire is damaging your home, so get us rolling early.
  2. Fire is a rapid oxidation reaction.  If you remove oxygen, that reaction stops.  So put a lid on your cooking and it will be starved for oxygen.  It may take a minute, but that one simple action can do most to stop a stove top fire.  If you don’t have a lid, slide a cookie sheet over the pot.
  3. Remember, the fire occurred because the cooking oil got too hot.  So the next move is to turn off the heat.  By shutting off the heat under the pan, the pan and contents will cool and combustion will no longer be supported.  This action, in combination with starving the fire for oxygen will stop a stove top cooking fire.

What do you NEVER do? 

  1. Many people try to move the burning pot to a ‘safe’ location, like outdoors or to the sink.  In 26 years in the fire service, I have NEVER seen anyone move a burning pot without getting burned.  Sometimes the burns have been life-changing disabilities.  Many times people spill the oil while moving the pot and spread fire throughout the house.  NEVER move the pot.  Leave it in place.
  2. DO NOT POUR WATER ON A BURNING POT!  Chemistry works against you here.  Remember that cooking oil burns at 520°F or above.  Liquid water poured into oil at that temperature will instantly turn into steam, expanding 1700 times.  One cup of water will make about 100 gallons of steam.  All of that expansion increases the surface area of the burning oil and that makes the fire bigger.  People will get burned and the fire will get much worse.  Want to see what that looks like?  Go to http://www.kare11.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=1614211262001 for a quick four-minute video.

How do I prevent stove top fires? 

Use caution.  Ensure your cooking is attended by someone paying attention.  Some people think that by turning the burner to high, they actually speed up the heating process.  While that may be true to some extent you don’t gain that much by pre-heating the burner on super-high.  And if you forget to turn it back down, the burner continues to heat your cooking oil past the auto-ignition temperature.  So paying careful attention to your cooking is the best preventative measure.

Next week we’ll discuss a kitchen fire suppression device designed to automatically extinguish stove top fires for those cases where someone wasn’t as cautious as you would have liked them to be.

If you’ve got questions about cooking safety, call us at 466-4602, or e-mail me at dbleeker@scfd9.org, or post a question here on this blog.

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From → Fire Prevention

One Comment
  1. sherrie sykes permalink

    My stove top caught fire and it was not on. I pulled up the grid and years worth of grease is in it along with wires. I’m scared to clean the grease out with all the wires lying in the grease. So what can i do. I can’t afford another stove at this time. This is a stove made on top of cabinet seats did about 30 years ago.

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