Holiday season brings more kitchen fires - Springfield fire crew explains what to do (and not do) if it happens

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 6:44 PM CST
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Because of the pandemic Thanksgiving may look different at many houses this year with masks, smaller gatherings or no gatherings at all.

But one thing that never changes is the fact that the number of kitchen fires go up dramatically around the holiday season and cooking is the leading cause of home fires in Springfield.

“By the time your smoke detector is going off you’ve got two minutes or less to get out of the house before it’s an untenable environment,” said Christopher Roush, a Captain with the Springfield Fire Department. “Traditionally we think of fires growing a hundred percent every minute and now with modern structure materials and combustibles in the home we know they grow a lot faster than that.”

Each year Springfield joins other fire departments around the country with dramatic demonstrations of what NOT to do with a grease fire and that’s throw water on it. As you can see in the accompanying video, the water causes an explosion of flames.

Roush also warned against using baking powder or flour.

“There’s some common misconceptions out there that you can take any powder you might have in your kitchen and throw it on a grease fire,” he said. “That’s not the case. One of the common things people want to throw is flour. Flour burns so that could cause it to flare up more.”

While baking POWDER is not good, baking SODA along with sugar and salt are effective.

“Baking soda is one of the best things to put on there,” Roush explained. “Chemical fire extinguishers have a proprietary chemical in them that’s similar to baking soda.”

There’s also an effective product called Firestop that sprays the blaze from a vegetable-can-sized container that’s mounted above your stove area.

“These can be picked up at your local hardware store, mounted up at the bottom of your microwave or screwed through the top of your cabinet above the stove,” Roush said. “It mimics a commercial suppression system where once a fire is detected it will put some suppressant down on the fire.”

Remember that fire needs oxygen which is why the number one thing you can do to stop a grease fire is take away its oxygen supply.

“If you’re there and you can safely do so without burning yourself you can slide a cover over it,” Roush said of using either a lid or flat object like a pizza or cookie sheet to cover the top of the pan.

And leave the lid on so the flames won’t restart.

Turn off the burner if you can and never try to move the pan while it’s burning.

“You can spill it on yourself or on the floor, catch the material in your home on fire while you’re trying to get there,” Roush said.

Most cooking fires start when people leave the kitchen unattended.

“If you can’t be there watching it you shouldn’t be cooking,” Roush said. “Going to the neighbor’s house, we see that a lot or sitting something on the stove, going to sleep, forgetting about it.”

Keep in mind that three-out-of-five people who are hurt in a kitchen fire are injured because they’re trying to fight the fire.

“If you can’t easily deal with it on your own, get out of the house and call 9-1-1,” Roush advised.

Most cooking fires are preventable. Here are the tips from the Springfield Fire Department to keep you safe in the kitchen:

  • Keep a 3-foot (1 meter) “kid-free” zone around the cooking area. It’s best to keep children out of the kitchen while hot food is being prepared. Use the stove’s back burners to ensure hot pots and pans are out of reach for young children.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher accessible in your kitchen. Make sure it is not expired. If you have any doubt about fighting a small fire, get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. Call 911 once you are out safely.
  • Be alert! If you are sleepy or consumed alcohol don’t use the stove or stove top.
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short time – turn off the stove!
  • Turn pot handles away from the stove’s edge.
  • Never throw water on a grease fire. Smother flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner.
  • Appliance cords should be coiled and kept away from counter edges.
  • When cooking, wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves.
  • Use dry oven mitts or potholders when removing hot food from ovens, microwaves, or stove tops. Replace old or worn oven mitts frequently to prevent burns.
  • Don’t place hot foods or liquids near the edge of a table or counter top.
  • Be mindful that even foods cooked in the microwave present a risk of burns. Open microwaved food slowly, and hold it away from your face. This will reduce your risk of being burned by hot steam escaping from a container.
  • Microwave ovens unevenly distribute heat. Never warm a baby bottle in a microwave oven. Doing so may result in the heated liquid scalding your baby’s mouth or throat.
  • For oven or microwave fires, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

If you are burned:

Burns require immediate attention. First, put the affected area in cool water for three to five minutes. Then, cover with a clean, dry cloth. If you have questions about caring for the injury, seek medical attention right away.

The Fire Department provides free smoke alarms to Springfield residents. Contact the Fire Department at 417-874-2300 or to request one.

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