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Avoiding Kitchen Fires | Spring 2015 Out Here Magazine

Simple precautions in the home’s busiest room can keep your house safe

woman taste-testing with a wooden spoon while she cooks
Out Here

By Kim Reid

Photography by iStock

Each year, kitchen fires kill hundreds of people and injure thousands. What's particularly sad about these tragedies is that they don't have to happen. Most kitchen fires can be prevented by following a few basic fire safety tips.

  • Never leave food cooking on the stove or in the oven when you leave home. Stay in the kitchen whenever anything is cooking. If you do have to leave the kitchen, take something with you, such as a timer, as a reminder to return to the kitchen. Turn off stoves and appliances as soon as you are finished using them. Unplug electrical appliances when they are not in use.
  • Wipe appliance surfaces after spills and clean stove tops and ovens regularly. Built-up grease on stovetops can catch fire easily.
  • Do not cook if you have been drinking alcohol or if you are drowsy. Studies show that 42 percent of people who have died in cooking fires were asleep.
  • Do not wear loose clothing while cooking. Loose sleeves can dangle too close to hot stove burners and catch fire. Protect yourself by wearing sleeves that fit snugly or by rolling up your sleeves securely when you cook.
  • Do not store things on or above your stove. Clothing can catch fire when you lean over stove burners to reach shelves.
  • Keep potholders, dish towels, and curtains at least three feet from your stove.
  • Avoid overloading your electrical outlets. Do not plug too many kitchen appliances, especially heat-producing ones such as toasters, coffee pots, waffle irons, and electric frying pans, into the same electrical outlet. Appliances can overheat and cause a fire.
  • Keep heat-producing appliances away from walls or curtains. Replace frayed or cracked electrical cords immediately. Never use an appliance cord with a cracked, loose, or damaged plug.
  • Keep fuses or circuit breakers in good working order. If an electrical appliance gets wet inside, have it serviced before using it again.
  • Use potholders when removing food from a microwave oven. While microwave ovens stay cool, the food cooked in them can be very hot. Remove lids from packaged microwave foods carefully to prevent steam burns.
  • Prevent burns and stovetop fires by always turning pot handles toward the back of the stove. A pot handle sticking over the edge of your stove can be bumped or grabbed by a child. Always keep children at least three feet away from the stove.
  • Heat cooking oil slowly over moderate heat and never leave it unattended.

Kim Reid is an extension agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.


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