West Chicago Voice - About Us : The voice of West Chicago, Illinois - digital local news - for locals by locals .

Cooking Mishaps #1 Cause of Home Fires: Fire Prevention Safety Tips To Avoid Home Fires

Cooking Mishaps #1 Cause of Home Fires: Fire Prevention Safety Tips To Avoid Home Fires
Sharing is Caring, WeGo!

Cooking Mishaps #1 Cause of Home Fires: Fire Prevention Safety Tips To Avoid Home Fires

October 8-14 is Fire Prevention Week, and the entire Month of October is Fire Prevention Awareness Month. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) —has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week (FPW) for more than 100 years. This year’s theme is “Cooking safety starts with YOU. Pay attention to fire prevention.”

The campaign works to educate everyone about simple but important actions they can take when cooking to keep themselves and those around them safe. According to NFPA, cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries in the United States. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires and deaths.

“Year after year, cooking remains the leading cause of home fires by far, accounting for half (49 percent) of all U.S. home fires, These numbers tell us that there is still much work to do when it comes to better educating the public about ways to stay safe when cooking.”  – Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy at NFPA

The NFPA encourages all West Chicago residents to embrace the 2023 Fire Prevention Week theme, Cooking safety starts with YOU. A cooking fire can grow quickly. Firefighters have seen many homes damaged and people injured by fires that could easily have been prevented. NFPA offers these key safety tips to help reduce the risk of a cooking fire.

“Cook with Caution”
• 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, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the home 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 small (grease) cooking fire and decide to fight the fire…
• On the stovetop, smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
• For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. if you have any doubt about fighting a
small 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 from outside the home

Causes and circumstances of home cooking fires
Unattended cooking was by far the leading factor in cooking fires and cooking fire casualties. Abandoned or discarded material, which may have been related to unattended cooking, ranked second in the causes of cooking fires and third in cooking fire deaths and injuries. A fatal fire in a Maine single-family home began when a male occupant fell asleep in an adjacent room while cooking oil was being heated on the kitchen stove. Investigators believe that when he woke to the burning oil, he threw water on the fire. This caused the fire to spread. The victim was found in the kitchen with burn and smoke inhalation injuries.

In another common scenario, combustible materials such as wrappers, potholders, or clothing caught fire when they were left by or came too close to hot cooking equipment.

Almost one-third of the fatal cooking fire victims and two-thirds of the non-fatally injured were in the area of origin when the fire started. With unattended cooking being the leading cause, it is not surprising that one-fifth of the fatalities were people involved in the ignition who were not in the area of origin. These were likely cooks
who had left the room. Some types of cooking, such as frying, broiling, and boiling, need continuous attention.

When simmering, baking, or roasting, cooks should stay at home and check on the cooking regularly. Not surprisingly, two-thirds (66 percent) of home cooking fires began with the ignition of cooking materials, including food. Cooking oil, fat, grease, and related substances were first ignited in half (52 percent) of the home cooking fires that began with cooking materials. Almost three-fifths (58 percent) of the civilian deaths and three-quarters of the civilian injuries (76 percent) and direct property damage (77 percent) associated with cooking material or food ignition resulted from these cooking oil or grease fires.

Death and injury rates per 1,000 fires were higher for food or cooking material fires that began with the ignition of cooking oil, as was the average loss per fire. Injury rates and average loss were also higher for fires beginning with fat, grease, butter, or lard. The frequency and increased risk of oil and grease fires indicate a need for increased consumer awareness on how to deal with these fires. Flames from a small oil or grease fire can be smothered by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner. The pan should be kept covered until it is
completely cool. Anthony Hamins, Sung Chan Kim, and Daniel Madrzykowski conducted experiments with cooking oil and peanut cooking oil on a free-standing range in the open and a range in a residential kitchen arrangement.

Their report described three phases of cooking oil fires. In the first stage, the fire ignites and grows in the pan. Next, the oil boils over and flows out of the pan. Other objects often ignite during this phase. The oil is consumed in the decay phase. They found that small cooktop fires could grow ultra-fast in a kitchen. In a subsequent article, it was noted that “cooktop fires can be larger than traditional gasoline
pool fires.”

Although clothing was the item first ignited in less than one percent of the reported home cooking fires, clothing ignitions led to 8 percent of the home cooking fire deaths. Nearly two-thirds of these victims were at least 75 years of age. While it is important for all of those who cook to wear snug or short sleeves, this is especially critical for older adults. An elderly Oklahoma woman phoned for help, stating that her clothing was on fire and she could not get out of her home. When the fire department arrived, the fire was already out. The severely burned woman was found in her living room. She told the firefighters that she had been making coffee when her clothes were ignited by the gas burner on the range. The victim was transported to the hospital where she later died.

Minor fires in properties with monitored fire alarm systems may be more likely to trigger a fire department response, and such systems are more common in apartments than in one- or two-family homes. More than three of every five apartment fires from all causes were cooking
fires that did not spread.

Victims of cooking fires

  • In 2014–2018, half (49 percent) of the people who died in cooking fires were at least 55 years of age. The 55–64 age group had the largest share of home cooking fire deaths.
  • People 85 and older have a risk of dying in a cooking fire that is 5.5 times higher than that of the overall population.
  • NFPA’s analysis of home fire victims of all causes found that home fire victims who were 85 and older were more likely to have died in a fire caused by cooking than by any other cause.
  • Young adults aged 20–34 were at the highest risk of non-fatal cooking injuries. There was much less variation in risk in the injury age distribution.
  • Only 28% of the injured were 55 or older.
  • The American Time Use Survey reported that in 2018, 46 percent of men and 69 percent of women engaged in food and drink preparation per day, with men spending an average of 18 minutes and women spending an average of 36 minutes per day on the activity
  • Although women spent twice as much time cooking, slightly more than half of the people killed (53%) or injured (51%) in reported home cooking fires during 2014–2018 were male.
  • Compared to those who were injured and survived home cooking fires, those who died were more likely to have been asleep, trying to escape, or unable to act to save themselves, possibly due to disability or impairment. In contrast, more than half of those who were non-fatally injured were trying to control the fire themselves.
  • Two-thirds (67 percent) of reported non-fatal home cooking fire injuries were minor.

For more general information about Fire Prevention Week and cooking safety, click HERE. For fire safety fun for kids, click HERE.

Leave a Reply