A kitchen fire can be a harrowing experience.
However, they are preventable and, in many cases, can be mitigated relatively easily with quick thinking and the correct use of tools available.
Yankton Deputy Fire Chief Larry Nickles told the Press & Dakotan that a late-December house fire in Yankton demonstrated how easy it is to lose control of a kitchen fire.
“The homeowner experienced a grease fire on the stove,” he said. “They attempted to extinguish it with a fire extinguisher, only to make the fire worse, so they had to leave the house.”
The fire department was then summoned to the scene and put out the fire, which did minor damage to the home, according to Nickles.
He said that a grease fire can usually be dealt with fairly simply.
“What we teach people to do is … as simple as putting the pan lid on top of the pan that’s on fire, turning the burner off and don’t move it,” he said.
Baking soda can also be used on a grease fire as a last-resort extinguishing method, while water shouldn’t be used at all.
As for fire extinguishers, Nickles said there are some tips to use for their successful operation.
“We always tell everybody to stand back a little ways and do a test shot,” he said. “Sometimes, the test shot will even put the fire out. That gives you an idea of what the extinguisher powder is going to do to the fire. In the case of the last kitchen fire that we had, the user was too close and it blew the grease all over because there is a lot of pressure in a fire extinguisher.”
Nickles said the best type of fire extinguisher to have on hand in a home kitchen, if desired, is a general purpose extinguisher.
In order to prevent fires in the kitchen, Nickles said it’s important to keep ovens clear.
“We see ovens used as storage for Tupperware and combustible items like that,” he said. “It gets forgotten and when they turn the oven on to preheat it, it results in a fire. There’s not usually so much fire damage, but the plastic melts, catches fire and the smoke it gives off is really damaging, not to mention dangerous to breathe.”
He added that people should also be mindful of what’s on and around their stove.
“We also see stoves where people use the same burner all the time, so they’ve got little knickknacks or burner covers on the stove,” he said. “Those should be removed.”
Long curtains on windows adjacent to a stove can also be a potential danger. Keeping drip pans underneath the stove is also extremely important to preventing fires. Nickles also recommends childproofing stove dials that are within easy reach of young children.
However, grease fires aren’t the only potential fire hazard in the kitchen people may confront.
Nickles has several tips for tackling a number of other kitchen disasters, including:
• Microwave fires:
“If you experience a fire in the microwave, turn it off and leave it alone,” he said.
• Oven coil fires:
“On an electric oven, when the burner decides to give up, it will blow a hole in the coil,” he said. “It makes it look like it’s on fire and the coil will continue to burn until it gets all the way around the coil. We tell people to leave the oven shut, turn the stove off, and go down and shut the breaker off at the panel because it will stay energized even though the stove is shut off. … When the burner coil in the oven goes, it usually doesn’t cause any damage, it’s just going to do its blowout thing all the way around, and when it’s done, it’s over with and you can repair it.”
In each instance, Nickles said the fire department can be called to assess whether there’s any further danger.
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