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November 27, 2012 > Prevent cooking fires

Prevent cooking fires

Submitted By Hayward Fire Department

Hayward Fire Department responds to cooking fires year-round. They are the most common type of fire experienced by U.S. households and the main cause of injury in residences. They can be prevented simply by paying more attention to cooking materials and equipment. Do not become a cooking-fire casualty. Learn the facts about cooking safely.

Safe Cooking Tips
The kitchen can be one of the most hazardous rooms in the home unless there are safe practices. Stay in the kitchen; never leave boiling, frying or broiling food unattended. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a short time, turn off the stove. Regularly check food that is cooking; use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.

Keep anything flammable - oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains - away from the stove. Keep the stovetop, burners and oven clean. Wear short, close-fitting or tightly-rolled sleeves when cooking. Suspended, loose clothing can catch fire.

Have a "kid-free zone" of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drinks are prepared or carried.

Always use cooking equipment that bears the label of a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Follow manufacturer's instructions and code requirements when installing, cleaning and operating cooking equipment.

Plug microwave ovens and other cooking appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for cooking appliances; it can overload the circuit and cause a fire. Check electrical cords for cracks, breaks or damage.

If You Have a Cooking Fire
Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire and do not re-enter for any reason. Call 9-1-1 after you leave from a cell phone or neighbor's home. If calling from a cell phone, tell the dispatcher exactly where you live as they may not be familiar with your local area.

If you attempt to fight the fire, be sure others are leaving the building and you have a clear path to the exit.

Always keep a lid nearby when you are cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. To keep the fire from re-igniting, leave the lid in place until the pan is completely cool.

If an oven fire occurs, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. After a fire, the oven should be checked and/or serviced before being used again.

Always call the fire department. They have special equipment to locate hidden fires that you may have overlooked.

Nuisance Smoke Alarms
If a smoke alarm sounds during normal cooking, you may need to move it further away from the kitchen (according to manufacturer's instructions) and/or install a smoke alarm with a pause button. If your alarm already has a pause button, push the pause button, open the door or window, and fan the area around the alarm with a towel to get circulate the air. Do not disable the smoke alarm or remove the batteries. Treat every smoke alarm-activation as a possible fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.

Charcoal Grills
Purchase the correct starter fluid and store it out of reach of children and away from heat sources. Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going.

Propane Grills
Check the propane cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately move away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.

All propane cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices (OPD) which are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel. Use only equipment bearing the mark of a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Follow the manufacturer's instructions to set up the grill and maintain it. Never store propane cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.

Barbecue Grills
Stovetop and oven fires are not the only types of cooking fires. As the weather gets warmer, the use of barbecue grills increases. While many of the safety tips are similar to indoor cooking, there are special concerns with barbecue grills.

Position the grill well away from siding and deck railings and from under eaves and overhanging branches. Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic. Keep children and pets away from the grill area by declaring a three-foot "kid-free zone" around the appliance.

The chef should use long-handled grilling tools to ensure clearance from heat and flames when cooking. Periodically remove grease and fat build-up in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill. Use only outdoors; if used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents, barbecue grills are fire and carbon monoxide hazards.

Burns and Scalds
Hospital emergency rooms treat around 29,850 thermal burns and 8,460 burns caused by cooking equipment. Ranges accounted for 62 percent of thermal burns and grills, 28 percent. Microwaves accounted for 41 percent of the scald burns. (Source: NFPA)

Microwaves are the leading cause of scalds; exercise care when opening a heated food container. Heat food in containers that are marked "microwave safe." Since foods heat unevenly in the microwave, make sure you stir and test the food before eating.

Protecting Children from Scalds and Burns
As the statistics suggest, young children are very vulnerable to burns by hot food and liquid. Some precautionary measures can reduce the risks.

Keep children at least three feet away from where food and drinks are prepared or carried. Keep hot foods and liquids away from the table or counter edges. Use the stove's back burners if young children are in the home. Never hold a child while cooking, drinking or carrying hot foods or liquids. Teach children that hot things burn.

For more information on Disaster Preparedness and safety-related materials, visit, click on the red "Disaster Preparedness" button or contact Hayward Fire Department Emergency Services Office at (510) 583-4948.

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