Cooking: The Leading Cause Of Home Fires - Central County Fire & Rescue

Cooking: The Leading Cause Of Home Fires

She just stepped away from the frying pan for a minute. He dozed off while dinner was simmering on the stove. While they hurried out the door, one of the kids bumped a knob on the stove, turning it on. It seems simple, but it doesn’t take much for a kitchen fire to set a home ablaze.

In 2018, more house fires happened in the kitchen than anywhere else in the home within Central County Fire & Rescue’s district, this year there have been 15 kitchen fires causing more than $200,000 in damage to local homes (like the one on Trailside Court pictured above). Nationally, it is estimated that home cooking causes more than 400 house fires each day. Most of these fires are caused by unattended cooking.  

“When you think about it, is not surprising that cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home injuries,” CCFR Assistant Chief Steve Brown says. “Everyone is busy, and many of these fires start when there is a distraction, or when someone is trying to multitask when cooking. The unfortunate part is that every one of these fires are preventable.” 

Chances are, many people will experience a cooking fire at some point. So what should you do if this happens to you? There are different ways to handle a cooking fire depending on its cause:

  • Grease fire
    • Suffocate it. Cover the pan with a lid or cookie sheet and turn off the stove. Never put water on a grease fire; it will only fuel the flames.
  • Microwave or oven fire
    • Keep the door closed, turn the appliance off and watch the fire. If the flames do not stop within a few minutes, get everyone out of the house and call 911.
  • Stove fire
    • If the fire is spreading or larger than a watermelon, get everyone out of the house and call 911 before trying to extinguish the blaze with a fire extinguisher.

Fire survives on air, so the key to putting out the flames is taking the air away. This is why you should never wave a towel or apron at the flames, or add water to a grease fire. These actions will only fuel the flames. Moving the fire outside is also a bad idea, as it can spread the flames and cause serious burns. 

Everyone should also have an easily accessible fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Before you use it in a fire, make sure everyone is headed out of the house and that you have a clear path to an exit. If you cannot immediately extinguish the fire, get out of the house and call 911. 

“This is not the time to be a hero,” Brown says. “Fire spreads quickly and it is not worth the risk to try to handle it yourself. Do not hesitate to get out and call for help.”

Tips to Prevent Kitchen Fires

  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking.
  • Use timers to remind you what is cooking.
  • Establish a 3-foot safety zone around appliances to keep kids and pets from getting too close.
  • Keep dish towels, cooking tools and other flammable items away from the stove.
  • Never place items on the stove, even if it is turned off.