By Diana Rodriguez, Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
Kitchen fires can spring up quickly; do you know what to do first? Learn when to use a fire extinguisher, when to smother a fire, and when to call the fire department.
According to the most recent government statistics available, there are more than 150,000 kitchen fires in the United States yearly, with hundreds of people killed and thousands more injured. Cooking mishaps cause up to 90 percent of kitchen fires, and most of those are grease fires. Those frightening statistics lead up to one big question: Do you know what to do when a kitchen fire flares? Should you first reach for the fire extinguisher or for the phone to call the fire department?
Grease Fires in the Kitchen
Grease fires belong in a class by themselves and should not be handled like any other kitchen fire. Rule No. 1: Never pour water on a grease fire. The best way to handle a grease fire is to smother it, if possible, and let it die out. Follow these specifics:
Oven, Microwave, and Electrical Fires
Fires can happen anywhere in the kitchen — near an electrical outlet, in the microwave, or in the stove. Here are some tips to help you know what to do in case of any of these kitchen fires:
Using a Fire Extinguisher on Kitchen Fire
Every kitchen should be equipped with a fire extinguisher. Get one that's labeled as safe to use on any kind of fire, and keep it within easy reach.
If a fire starts, you won't have time to stop and read the directions. Become familiar with these tips to understand how to use a fire extinguisher on a small kitchen fire:
Baking soda is also an important ingredient in any kitchen, and not just for baking cookies. If a fire breaks out on an electric stovetop or if you don’t have anything available to smother a grease fire, grab a box of baking soda and pour it generously on the flames. Baking soda will help to extinguish a small fire, but you may need several boxes of it. Never use flour to put out a fire, as it can make the flames worse.
When to Call the Fire Department for a Kitchen Fire
So when should you call 911, and when should you try to fight a fire yourself? Never hesitate to call the fire department. But if it's a small, contained fire, you should follow the above tips to try to extinguish it while waiting for help to arrive.
You should also be sure to get your family out of the house, and if the flames rise and spread, you should get out, too. Kitchen fires that start small and can be quickly contained or extinguished are one thing, but roaring fires aren't something you should attempt to tackle. Remember safety first: Keep yourself and your family protected, and call for help.