Cooking is the leading cause of home fires. Almost half (44%) of reported home fires started in the kitchen. US fire departments responded to an estimated average of 172,900 home structure fires per year started by cooking activities in 2014-2018. Home fires caused by cooking peak at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Ranges or cooktops were involved in 61% of reported home cooking fires, 87% of cooking fire deaths and 78% of cooking fire injuries. Households that use electric ranges have a higher risk of cooking fires and associated losses than those using gas ranges.
Unattended cooking was the leading cause of cooking fires and casualties. More than one-quarter of the people killed by cooking fires were sleeping at the time. More than half of the non-fatal injuries occurred when people tried to control the fire themselves.
What you should know about home cooking safety
• Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
• Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food.
• If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
• Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
If you have a cooking fire
• Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
• Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
• If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
• Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
• For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
Safety considerations for cooking with oil
• Always stay in the kitchen when frying on the stovetop.
• Keep an eye on what you fry. If you see wisps of smoke or the oil smells, immediately turn off the burner and/or carefully remove the pan from the burner. Smoke is a danger sign that the oil is too hot.
• Heat the oil slowly to the temperature you need for frying or sautéing.
• Add food gently to the pot or pan so the oil does not splatter.
• Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. Never throw water on the fire.
• If the fire does not go out or you don’t feel comfortable sliding a lid over the pan, get everyone out of your home. Call the fire department from outside.
Get the kids involved too! It's never too early to learn about fire safety!
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Credit: nfpa.org, usfa.fema.gov