Home & Garden

Home checklist: Preventing kitchen fires

If there’s smoke, head to the kitchen. That’s the most likely source of home fires.

October is National Fire Prevention Month. And the kitchen ranks as the room where home fires most often start.

“Cooking fires are the most prevalent,” said Jim Gustin, senior property specialist for Travelers Insurance. “Two out of every five home fires is cooking-related.”

The most common cause of those fires? Unattended cooking.

“People put something on the stove and leave it,” Gustin said. “They think they have time to do something else and forget they’re cooking. We multitask in every facet of our lives; cooking is not immune.

“Obviously, the biggest thing to remember (to prevent these home fires): Don’t leave anything cooking,” he added. “That includes appliances (such as toasters). If you need to step away, turn off the appliance until you return to the kitchen.”

Other common fire dangers in the kitchen spring from accidents. Clean up spills; they can burn. Keep flammable items away from hot surfaces and burners. Be extra careful when frying.

“Don’t wear loose, long sleeves while cooking,” Gustin added. “Don’t put hot grease in the garbage; instead, let it cool completely and dispose of it in a covered coffee can.”

And don’t use your oven as extra closet space.

“Don’t store stuff in the oven,” Gustin said. “In small apartments, we often see people store stuff in the oven because they don’t have enough cabinet space. Then someone turns on the oven.”

Other common sources for home fires include faulty electrical wiring, overloaded outlets, frayed electrical cords, unattended candles, improper use of space heaters, clogged chimneys and lint-jammed clothes dryers.

While having smoke detectors and a handy fire extinguisher are important, remember to call 911 if you see flames.

“Too often people wait and try to fight the fire themselves, especially with kitchen fires,” Gustin said. “People’s safety comes first. Call 911 immediately. Get help on its way as soon as possible.”

– Debbie Arrington