Stay alert, attentive in kitchen to prevent fires

By Mari-Alice Jasper, Fort Campbell CourierNovember 18, 2022

Stay alert, attentive in kitchen to prevent fires
To prevent a cooking fire from spreading, the stove top and surrounding area should be clear of combustible items such as curtains, potholders, towels, rags, drapes and food packaging. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services is asking Soldiers and Families to keep cooking safety at the forefront of their minds as they spend more time in the kitchen preparing for the holiday.

Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires with more than three times the daily average for such incidents, according to the National Fire Protection Association. In 2019, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,400 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving.

Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services is available 24 hours a day to keep Soldiers and Families safe. In the event of an emergency, dial 911. Before you dial, be sure to know the address of your location. This will enable first responders to arrive at the scene as quickly as possible.

All homes should have working smoke detectors. If visiting Family, check that smoke detectors are in working condition before heading to the kitchen.

Wendy Leo, fire inspector, Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services, said adults should establish a kid-free zone around the stove and other heated appliances to prevent scalds and burns.

Children may be curious about activity in the kitchen, but it is best to keep small hands away from hot surfaces such as the stove or slow cookers. Children should be kept at least 3 feet away from the stove and oven, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Leo recommends having an activity planned for young children to keep them occupied as the adults prepare the meal.

Thanksgiving presents a few unique fire hazards such as deep frying and smoking turkeys for the main course.

The National Fire Protection Association discourages the use of turkey fryers as they can lead to severe burns, injuries and property damage.

Leo said fire safety professionals recommend people purchase deep-fried turkeys from a commercial restaurant or grocery store rather than attempting to cook one at home. The hot oil needed to deep fry the turkey can cause a lot of damage.

“A lot of people don’t take into account the weight displacement that occurs when deep frying a turkey,” she said. “Instead of the turkey taking up the anticipated volume, it usually takes up more and the oil will overflow down onto the open flame at the bottom.”

If the turkey isn’t properly thawed before deep frying it also can become a fire hazard.

“People will try to deep fry the turkey when there is still frost on it. When you put water or ice in the vat of hot oil it will bubble up and could overflow,” she said. “It’s just very, very dangerous.”

Deep frying should always be done outside, never in the kitchen or garage, Leo said.

When smoking a turkey, be sure to dispose of charcoals properly.

“Do not place used charcoal in residential plastic trash cans,” she said. “Put used coals in metal cans with tight fitting lids. Soak the coals with a lot of water.”

Unattended cooking

Every year, unattended cooking is the No. 1 cause for home fires on a national and local 1evel, Leo said.

“Never leave the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop,” she said. “Some types of cooking, especially those that involve frying or sauteing with oil, need continuous attention.”

It is important to focus on one thing at a time when it comes to cooking, she said. If baking or simmering something over time, check often and stir as needed to prevent burning.

Staying in the kitchen, using a timer and avoiding distractions such as electronics or TV, are steps everyone can take to keep Families safe, she said.

Unattended cooking is particularly dangerous because a fire can start in a matter of seconds and quickly grow out of control.

The stove top and surrounding area should be clear of combustible items such as curtains, potholders, towels, rags, drapes and food packaging.

Those working in the kitchen are encouraged to dress appropriately. Garments that have long, draped sleeves are a fire hazard when cooking. People are also advised not to wear dangly jewelry while cooking as it can become a hazard.

Keep calm, contain the fire

All kitchens should be equipped with a fully charged fire extinguisher.

Should a cooking fire happen, it is important to remain calm and safely contain the fire by suffocating it.

Always cook with a fitted lid beside the pan being used on the stove. If a fire occurs in the pot, slide the lid over the pan and turn the burner off. By doing this, the oxygen and heat source is being removed from the situation, which will cause the fire to die, Leo said. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time.

Water should never be thrown on a cooking fire, especially when grease or oil is involved.

“Once you put water on a grease fire it is going to explode and make matters way worse,” Leo said. “It will burn you and the kitchen.”

It also is not recommended to throw baking soda, flour, salt or any other pantry items on a fire in hopes it will suffocate it. Leo said these old wives’ tales can cause more harm than good.

“Any product that you use to smother any kind of flame could possibly contribute to the fire,” she said. “Do yourself a favor and leave those things on the shelf.”

If a fire starts inside the oven, the best course of action is to turn the oven off and keep the door closed, she said. Doing this will cause the fire to run out of oxygen forcing it to burn itself out.

A few days before the holiday, Leo recommends deep cleaning the oven according to the appliance manufacturer’s instructions. This will ensure all food debris is removed.

Also, do not use the oven for storage as a general safety precaution.