Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Kitchen Fire Safety

A few days ago the ignitor in the oven stopped working. Man was that a drag. Nothing dims my flame like not being able to cook. We don't have a microwave, and you can't really grill every meal, so the repairman was called and a few days later, he came to (very slowly) replace it. Of course, he was the extra creepiest dude and asked all sorts of strange questions, like "Why don't you have children?" Excuse me??? It was icky and it was expensive, and it took 2 hours (most of which was time spent waiting for his computer to reboot. Aurg) but at least the end result was a working oven. Or so I thought.

Last night, the oven was turned on for the first time since the repair to bake a carefully (and beautifully, I must add) prepared Cherry Clafoutis. (Recipe from the June issue of Food and Wine, which has some crazy huge typos -- it calls for 2 cups of milk, but later in the recipe says, "add remaining 3 1/2 cups of milk") and the oven promptly and dramatically burst into flames. Black smoke billowed out, filling the kitchen with an excellently pervasive layer of silky soot. I instantly turned off the oven (but not after peering in to see the clafoutis, and how gorgeous is was. It had not caught fire, just the stove had) then nervously called 911 (I had never called before!), and within a heartbeat there were 4 fire trucks (with at least 20 firemen. As each new man headed up I said "It's just a tiny fire!" I felt so guilty, but I guess to a professional, every fire is a serious fire. I also just didn't know how they all expected to cram into a room that can just barely contain six adults!) of course, by the time they got into the kitchen, the flames were totally out. All they ended up doing was opening all the windows and scaring the lights out of the cat. (Poor Methuslesa) That, as far as I am concerned, was great. It was a supremely lucky thing that nothing else caught fire, but it did rattle my nerves like a rusty chain in a gale force wind and make me think a lot more about kitchen fire safety. So after downing three martinis at the local bar (courtesy of the warranty on the stove), I thought I should have a refresher course on kitchen fire safety.

In professional kitchens, there is usually a sprinkler system and a dry fire retardant system that can be triggered at the pull of a lever or just with enough smoke. In most private homes, we don't have that, so we have to know whats what and how to deal with it calmly and rationally. So here is what I know, and you should too.

Have a fire detector properly installed, and make sure the battery is working.

Have a small fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen

Keep stove tops free from combustibles: Pot-holders, boxes, plastic utensils, etc.

Routinely check for and clean up accumulated grease in the hood or near the stove. Clean or change all filters monthly.

The most common fire in a kitchen is a dry fire. This is when you leave the pot on the stove, the water (or whatever) boils out. "This usually doesn't cause a great deal of damage. The heat may sometimes damage the surrounding area. The smoke may leave a residue and an odor. Hopefully a little cleaning up is all it takes. " - Information from The Hanford Fire Department website. I wonder where Hanford is?

"The grease fire occurs when oil or grease type foods are heated and ignite. A grease fire can do significant damage. Open flames can extend to surrounding cabinets or other combustible items. If unnoticed, a grease fire can extend to a major house fire, engulfing the entire kitchen, adjacent rooms or even the attic. This becomes a dangerous life-threatening fire. "

"Oven Fires. Most of the time an oven fire is not serious. The fire is usually contained in the oven, which is designed for high heat anyway. The oven fire usually suffocates or is easily extinguished."

In all cases, make sure everyone evacuates the house, then call 911 and report the fire.

If the fire is very small, you can use a fire extinguisher to try and put it out. But if the fire gets out of control, get out of the house and wait for the fire department to arrive. (If I had had a fire extinguisher, I would not have had to call the fire department...)

You might be able to extinguish a grease fire on the stove in several different ways. The simplest way is to place a lid on the pan and the fire should suffocate. A large amount of baking soda can also be used to extinguish a grease fire, so always have some handy. Once you have the fire extinguished, don't forget to turn off the burner. If the flames are too high, don't risk getting burned.

Never, ever put water on a grease fire. Water will splatter the grease and dramatically increase the size of the fire. You will easily get burned! NEVER try to carry a flaming grease fire outside. It will quickly be too hot to carry and you will certainly spread the fire over the entire area.

Fires spread quickly and it is the smoke, and not the flames that can kill. Knowing what to do in a fire situation, and keeping a calm head are the best things you can do to prevent any serious damage.

Wow, well, that was serious wasn't it! Tomorrow...how to buy a new stove. (Just kidding)


Buy a fire extinguisher!

Hot tap water scald burns cause more deaths and hospitalizations than any other hot liquid burns.

The leading cause of home fires and related injuries is home-cooking equipment.

When a smoke detector is used in combination with a fire sprinkler, it can reduce the loss of life up to 98.5 percent -- an increase of 48.5 percent over what smoke detectors alone can do.

Oh wow, thank goodness you were ok! I think Ill go check my smoke detector right now. And sorry about the dessert, I bet it would have been delicious
I had a similar thing happen with an oven which resulted in the entire Westmount Fire Department arriving on my parents' doorstep on July 1 (a holiday) in the pouring rain while I was wearing a lovely Lanz flannel nightgown, trying to explain that I just didn't know how to shut down "mission control", otherwise known as the alarm system, that had been triggered when the chicken roasting innocently in the oven caused the whole damn thing to go up in flames. We all survived, embarassed and emotionally scarred,but unharmed.
you too? my ignitor went out this month, i haven't had it fixed because we don't know if we're going to be gone the rest of the year or not. LOL, i feel better knowing i'm not alone. right now i'm making good use of the toaster oven.
New fire safety rules affecting all non-domestic premises in England and Wales came into force on 1 October 2006.

A fire risk assessment helps you to identify all the fire risks and hazards in your premises. You can then decide to do something to control them.

Articles Fire Risk Assessments:
1. Fire Types & Fire Extinguishers
2. United Kingdom: Fire Departments
3. New Fire Safety Rules
4. Steps Needed For Fire Risk Assessment
5. Steps Are Needed To Save Lives
6. Fire Safety Engineering
7. Safety Rules: Fire Risk Assessment

Fire Risk Assessments
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