Gilbert Arizona firefighter Mike Conner is deputy chief of Gilbert Fire & Rescue Department, Community Services Division. Here is his advice which originally appeared in the Arizona Republic website.
Question: What should I do if I have a cooking fire?
Answer: Cooking fires are the number one cause of house fires and injuries. The main contributor is unattended cooking, which is the cause of nearly 90 percent of these fires.
Fires are more likely to start in the kitchen than in any other room in your home. The National Fire Protection Association reported that in 2011 cooking was involved in an estimated 156,300 structure fires and caused 470 deaths, 5,390 injuries and more than $1 billion in property damage.
The statistic that should be an eye-opener is that more than half of reported non-fatal cooking-fire injuries occurred when people tried to fight the fires themselves. Most of these are from incorrect techniques like using water to fight a grease fire.
Never leave food that is cooking unattended — whether frying, grilling or using the broiler. If you must leave, turn off the appliance. When you’re baking, check it regularly and never leave your home.
Keep your work area clear of anything that can catch on fire: oven mitts, towels, food packaging. Loose clothing can be a danger, wear short and close-fitting sleeves when cooking. Also be aware of loose-fitting aprons that can dangle onto burners.
When using cooking oil, if it starts to boil, remove it from the heat source and let it cool before adding food. If oil catches on fire, wear an oven mitt and slide a lid over the pan or use a baking sheet to cover it. Having a lid out on the counter, even if you’re not using it, is a good idea in case of a fire. A fire extinguisher kept in the kitchen is also a great idea.
If you can’t cover a grease fire or can’t access the fire extinguisher, call 911.