As a first responder I have witnessed many tragedies due to home fires. Sadly more fires start in the kitchen than in any other place in the home. Two of every five home fires start in the kitchen while food is cooking. Beyond being common, cooking fires are also deadly. On average, they cause 44 percent of home fires, 15 percent of home fire deaths and 38 percent of home fire injuries each year.
Multitasking while cooking is the biggest culprit and certainly not a good idea. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires, responsible for one-third of them. Frying is the number one activity associated with cooking fires. Cooking oil or grease can easily catch fire if it gets too hot and because frying is typically done in an open pan, a fire can spread easily once it starts.
Ranges or cook-tops are the most common equipment involved in home cooking fires. These account for 58 percent of fires. Ovens account for 16 percent. In fact, an electric range is more dangerous than a gas range. That's because, with an electric range, it may be less obvious that a burner is on. Remember, burners on electric ranges stay hot for a period of time even when turned off.
Microwave ovens are more dangerous than most folks think. They're one of the leading home products associated with scald burn injuries, accounting for 44 percent of the microwave injuries seen in emergency rooms in 2011.
In the kitchen, it usually isn't fires that burn young kids. More often, it's contact with a hot stove or pans or a scald from hot cooking liquids or steam. In fact, children under age 5 accounted for 55 percent of tableware scalds, 42 percent of contact burns from ranges or ovens, and 34 percent of microwave scalds in 2011.
What you wear while cooking makes a difference. Though loose clothing was the item first ignited in only 1 percent of home cooking fires, these incidents accounted for 16 percent of cooking fire deaths.
Taking matters into your own hands can make matters worse. Three out of five people who were injured during cooking fires were injured while trying to fight the fire themselves.
ORR Safety offers 10 tips to keep your family safe
- Cook only when you're alert -- not when you're exhausted, not when you've been drinking.
- Keep an eye on what you fry. If you have to step away from the stove, turn it off.
- Keep things that can catch fire -- such as dish towels, potholders and paper towels -- away from the stove. And avoid cooking in your bathrobe -- the loose sleeves can catch fire easily.
- Keep hot things away from the edges of tables and counters.
- Open microwaved food slowly, and keep the food away from your face.
- Have a "kid-free" zone of at least 3 feet around the stove and anything hot -- and never hold your child while you're cooking or carrying something hot.
- Teach kids to stay away from the stove and hot foods.
- Keep pets off cooking surfaces.
- Install smoke alarms in the kitchen, outside each sleeping area, inside each bedroom, and on every level of your home (including the basement).
- If you have a fire, just get outside, stay outside and call the fire department.