Updated: Apr 20
Kitchen fires can be a terrifying and costly experience, but knowing the right safety steps to take can help you or your tenants stay safe and minimize property damage. In this article, we’ll cover kitchen fire basics such as signs to look for, extinguishing techniques, post-fire safety tips and prevention methods. We’ll also provide guidance on what to do after a kitchen fire has been extinguished. With these essential kitchen fire safety measures in mind, you can ensure that your kitchen remains safe from any unexpected accidents or incidents.
Signs of Kitchen Fires
The most common signs can be subtle and easily missed so it’s important to stay alert and mindful when in the kitchen. The signs of home cooking fires include a burning smell or smoke, especially if the cause is an oven fire from cooking food or other kitchen appliances. Additionally, you may notice flames or sparks coming from a kitchen appliance such as a stovetop, oven, toaster oven, air fryer, microwave, etc. If you notice any of these signs, act quickly.
You should also be on the lookout for other telltale signs such as flickering lights and hissing sounds coming from kitchen appliances. In some cases, fires can cause power outages in certain areas of the home due to an electric surge caused by the fire’s heat. You may even see smoke or steam wafting into other nearby rooms if there is a duct connected to the room where the fire originated.
A five-year study conducted by the National Fire Protection Association found, “cooking was the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries.” A cooking fire can escalate quickly and pose significant safety risks well beyond the walls of the kitchen. These fires have the potential to spread rapidly in the home.
The best approach is to keep a house fire from happening in the first place. It’s important to take preventative measures such as regular cleaning and inspection of kitchen appliances, using appropriate cookware for each appliance type when cooking, ensuring all kitchen items are kept away from any heat sources while not in use, and unplugging devices when they are not being used.
Having a working smoke alarm installed in the kitchen area can provide an early warning system should there be signs of fire or smoke present in the kitchen. Installing a smoke alarm monitoring system is an even greater step toward preventing cooking fires because this automatically shuts down the appliance (e.g. stove) when the smoke detectors are triggered, eliminating the heat source and diminishing the chance of fire spreading.
Extinguishing Kitchen Fires
Extinguishing stovetop fires and oven fires is a critical step to ensure safety and minimize property damage. It’s important to remember that kitchen fires can escalate very quickly and pose significant risks, so it’s best to act fast when you suspect or detect kitchen fire signs.
The most common fire extinguishers use dry chemicals. This type of fire extinguisher is designed for use on ordinary combustible materials, including grease and cooking oil, as well as electrical fires. For very small fires, you can pour baking soda on the flames to accomplish a similar result.
If a kitchen appliance has caught fire, be sure to unplug it before attempting to put out the flames. This is one of the reasons a smoke alarm monitoring system can be so crucial—when flames are blazing it can be hard to remember this step, and even harder to dodge flames while you unplug or manually remove power to the heating elements.
Once you’ve cut power to the appliance, stand at least three feet away and aim the nozzle of the fire extinguisher at the base of the flame (not directly at the flames). Depress the handle and sweep side-to-side at the base of the flame until all the flames are out.
Keep in mind that even after using a fire extinguisher, a fire can flare up again if not handled properly. Clear away any flammable materials from around the area where the kitchen fire occurred. Never leave burning material unattended or try to fight large home cooking fires yourself—call 911 if immediate efforts don’t completely eliminate the problem so that professional firefighters can respond quickly with their highly specialized tools and equipment for efficiently putting out larger fires.
Post-Fire Safety Tips
After a kitchen fire has been extinguished, it’s important to take the proper steps to ensure safety and prevent the fire from reigniting. If you are renting your property, contact your landlord or property manager even if the kitchen fire was small so they can be responsible for following these steps, as applicable.
Check for signs of fire damage or smoke contamination in the kitchen area and throughout the home. Smoke can travel quickly through vents, ducts, and other openings.
All food products that were exposed to smoke should be discarded. Smoke contains hazardous materials that can make food unsafe for consumption. The same rules apply for kitchen utensils, cookware, kitchen appliances, and other kitchen items that may have come in contact with smoke or fire—if signs of damage persist after normal cleaning then play it safe and discard them.
Any items that may have been damaged by heat or flames should be disposed of properly according to local regulations. This includes non-food items such as carpets and upholstery fabrics. Damaged electrical wiring should also be replaced by a qualified electrician as soon as possible.
Inspect your kitchen exhaust system and filters for any sign of damage due to smoke or heat from the fire. If necessary, have these inspected by a professional technician who is certified to work on kitchen exhaust systems in order to ensure good ventilation in case of future kitchen fires.
Use an air purifier in areas where there may have been lingering smoke particles left behind from the kitchen fire. This will help reduce indoor air pollution, which can cause health problems when people are exposed over extended periods of time.
Obviously, prevention is better than responding to a fire or cleaning up the destruction it can cause. With that in mind, here are some tips to help keep kitchen fires from occurring in the first place:
Check kitchen appliances regularly
Look for signs of wear and tear or defects that could lead to a kitchen fire. Electrical appliances should be unplugged when not in use and cords should never be frayed or worn.
Clear the area
Keep combustible materials (including paper towels, kitchen rags, and cleaning supplies) away from kitchen appliances that generate heat such as stoves, ovens, and microwaves.
Never leave cooking unattended
Make sure someone is in the kitchen at all times when food is cooking on the stovetop or in the oven, as this will reduce the risk of a kitchen fire starting due to forgotten ingredients or equipment being left on too long.
Install smoke alarms
Make sure detectors are installed throughout your home and test them regularly to ensure they are working properly. Smoke alarms monitor kitchen activity 24/7 so you know if something has been left on too long or an appliance has malfunctioned.
Schedule regular maintenance
Set appointments with professionals who specialize in kitchen exhaust systems and ducting. These technicians can check for leaks, clogs, debris buildup, or other issues that could lead to a kitchen fire if left unchecked.
Have a working fire extinguisher
Keep it within reach of the kitchen at all times and make sure everyone in your home (who is old enough) knows how to properly use it so they can act quickly and safely if necessary. Again, baking soda can be used to extinguish small fires but frantically searching your fridge or pantry when flames are blazing is likely not the best solution so plan on finding the extinguisher.
Be careful with cooking oils
Never pour flammable liquids near an open flame or hot surface as these can easily ignite when exposed to heat. Be careful with deep fat frying—frying oils heated beyond their smoke point (the temperature at which oil starts smoking) can cause especially intense kitchen fires. Take precautions like using cookware with thick walls and stable bases also helps reduce the risk of overheating oil beyond its smoke point. And never fill pots more than halfway full with oil before heating them up as this increases the chance of splattering hot oil around, which can ignite on contact with flames or surfaces that have been heated above its flashpoint (the temperature at which vapors above the oil ignited).
Don’t forget the basics
Keep flammable objects well away from any heat source. This includes things like paper towels, food packaging, dish towels, and disposable cups, utensils, or plates that can quickly catch fire. Also pay attention to where you place oven mitts or kitchen towels as these can often be placed too close to heat and will catch fire relatively easily. Even your clothing can be hazardous—grease splatters on a long-sleeve shirt, for example, could pose a risk.
Install a smoke alarm monitoring system
Smoke alarm monitoring systems automatically shut off a heat source when a smoke detector is triggered. Often overlooked as part of a fire prevention plan, these devices are literal life savers. Dumping baking soda on a grease fire or using an extinguisher to eliminate flames is only a temporary solution if the heat source remains on.
FireAvert was started for exactly this reason. FireAvert Pro is the world’s first professional smoke alarm monitoring system. It protects families, tenants, and property from deadly cooking fires with Automatic Stove Shut-off Technology and Cloud-based stove and smoke alarm monitoring.
No kitchen is immune to the risk of kitchen fires, but there are steps you can take to minimize your chances of experiencing one. Make sure that all electrical appliances and cords are in good condition and unplugged when not in use. Keep flammable materials away from heat sources and never leave cooking unattended.
Be proactive by installing smoke alarms and scheduling regular maintenance with professionals who specialize in kitchen exhaust systems or ducting. Have a working fire extinguisher close at hand, be careful with liquids near open flames or hot surfaces, don’t forget basic safety measures like keeping oven mitts away from heat sources. And consider investing in a smoke alarm monitoring system like FireAvert Pro for added protection against kitchen fires.
With these tips on how to prevent kitchen fires as well as what do if one does occur, you will be better prepared should an unexpected kitchen fire happen!