Cooking is the leading cause of residential fires in the nation as a whole. Nationwide, cooking also is the leading cause of home fire injuries, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
To prevent cooking fires, use appliances according to manufacturer’s instructions and refrain from overloading electrical outlets. Check food that is cooking regularly to verify that it is cooking uniformly and as expected. Move anything that could catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, wrappers and towels, away from the stovetop.
If a fire starts, you need to act quickly.
For an oven fire, turn off the oven. By removing the external heat source, the burning food will slowly self-extinguish. Keep the door closed. If you open the oven door, the fresh air may breathe life into the fire. Remember, it’s an oven. A bit of extra heat shouldn’t damage it.
For a fire in a microwave oven, turn off the heat with the “Stop” button rather than the “Open Door” button. Again, you want to cut the heat without introducing new oxygen to the fire.
For a pan or wok fire, put a lid on it. Wear an oven mitt, hold the lid or baking sheet like a shield and slide the lid or sheet over the pan or wok. That cover will block the oxygen. Next, turn off the heat and let the container cool before trying to clean your mess.
It’s important not to use water on a grease or oil fire, because the water will convert to steam and carry a burning cloud of grease vapor into the air. Don’t use flour either. Flour is pulverized dead grass. It can burn, especially in its dust form. A fire extinguisher is the wrong choice because the pressurized chemical may spread the burning grease across the stovetop. Baking soda isn’t flammable, but you have to get to close to the flames to spread it effectively.
Instead, put a lid on it. If you stand by your pan, you can prevent the fire from starting in the first place or catch it when it’s still small.