Local News

Learn How To Handle The Heat, Flames In The Kitchen

Posted August 28, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— The most common source of house fires is the kitchen. Last year in Cary, 17 of 44 structure fires started on the stove. It is important to know the right way to put out a kitchen fire.

Hillary Berkowitz of Cary knows firsthand the danger of leaving a pan on a hot stove. When she added oil to the hot pan, a fireball consumed her kitchen.

"The phone's ringing, the kid's crying and the pan is getting really hot," Berkowitz says. "I didn't think anything of it. The flames were all the way up to the ceiling in seconds."

Fire captain Debbie Hilliard says the heat of a pan on an unattended stove could reach an ignition temperature.

A common mistake people do is using water to contain a grease fire. Water evaporates and sends hot grease flying. People also mistakenly use flour to douse the flames. Flour is highly flammable.

Common household ingredients like salt and baking soda are good ways to put out a grease fire. Fire safety experts say the fastest way to stop the flames is to cover the pan to cut off oxygen to the fire and turn off the stove.

In the case of the Berkowitz family, everyone got out of the house OK, but they now know that fire safety will be on the menu from now on.

"Now, I know I can't answer the phone and take care of the kids while I cook. I have to keep that separate because that was the most scariest thing," Berkowitz says.

Firefighters say most kitchen fire victims get hurt when they try to carry a burning pan out of the house. Even using a fire extinguisher on a grease fire can be dangerous, because it tends to splatter the hot oil. Kitchen Fire Safety Tips:

  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • If heating oil or grease, use moderate, not high, heat and do not leave it for a second.
  • Wear tight-fitting sleeves or roll them up when cooking.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the stove.
  • Have a large lid handy to smother a fire if a pan of grease ignites. The lid should be left in place until the pan has cooled completely. If for some reason a lid is not available; baking soda can possibly be used as another method of extinguishment.
  • Never use a fire extinguisher on grease fires since the grease may splatter and the fire can spread.
  • Never use flour to put out a fire; it is flammable.
  • Do not install smoke detectors directly in the kitchen; they will malfunction too often.