In light of the holiday cooking season that is upon us, we thought we would drop you a line to make sure you and your family were prepared in the event of a stovetop grease fire. We also want to make sure that, if you do experience such a fire in your kitchen, you don’t make matters worse by committing the common blunders made by countless homeowners each year resulting in thousands of holiday house fires.
Let’s face it: Despite the fact that there are a lot of fire prevention companies out there… you don’t really want one knocking on your door… especially this time of year, right?
It’s Sunday afternoon. The Buffalo Bills SuperBowl game is on in five minutes (we’re being optimistic here). Your spouse is in the backyard with the dog, your kids are in their rooms finishing their homework assignments for Monday, and you are in your kitchen frying up a batch of homemade chicken fingers in a small pot on your gas stove. When all of a sudden, you accidentally bump the pot handle—spilling hot coconut oil (we’re trying to be healthy here) onto the gas flame—igniting the entire pot and parts of your stovetop. Assuming that you’ve practiced proper smoke detector placement (We’ll cover that in a future blog post.), your smoke alarm is wailing and you need to do something – fast!
How to extinguish a Stove Top Grease Fire
Warning: NEVER USE WATER!
Here’s Why: This might sound a bit counterintuitive, but water contains oxygen which the flames will use as fuel—creating a fiery geyser that will shoot up to your ceiling and probably burn your house to the ground! If you haven’t already seen this demonstrated on MythBusters, Click Here.
What Should You Do?
Step 1 – Turn Off All Burners
Step 2 – Cover the Pot
If you have a pot lid within reach, grab it and quickly cover the pot. Ideally, you should always have a lid nearby when pan frying or deep frying foods on your stovetop. If your frying pans didn’t come with their own lids, you might want to invest in a universal fry pan lid; they come in really handy and often outlast the pans themselves.
What If You Don’t Have a Lid?
If you don’t have a pot lid within reach, you can use a damp (NOT DRIPPING WET) dish rag or towel. Simply, wet it down, wring it out, and then hold it out in front of you (covering your hands to protect them) like a shield as you carefully drape it over the flaming pot. You should also leave the cloth in place until the pot cools to prevent the oil from reigniting.
Step 3 – Extinguish the Flames
Option A – Smother with a Damp Cloth
Let’s be realistic here: if you just have a tiny spot of flaming oil beside the burner, there’s no sense in grabbing your fire extinguisher and making a mess of things. You can just use a second damp rag and smother the flames, but if your grease fire is getting out of control, by all means use the extinguisher.
Option B – Smother with Baking Soda
Throwing a handful of baking soda onto your grease fire will smother the flames by depriving them of oxygen. That’s because baking soda contains carbon dioxide.
Warning: NEVER USE FLOUR!
Here’s Why: Flour dust is actually highly combustable when suspended in the air. Since our scenario involves homemade chicken fingers, the kitchen in question probably has a pan of flour and breadcrumbs somewhere near the stove. Don’t reach for it! Flour’s resemblance to baking soda is no reason to burn your house down. Click Here to see flour in action!
Option C – Use a Fire Extinguisher
Most homes are equipped with an ABC Fire Extinguisher, which is a general purpose extinguisher that uses a non-conductive powder to smother flames. This type of extinguisher can handle Class A, Class B, and Class C fires. Follow the instructions on the extinguisher and use a low sweeping motion to extinguish the flames. If you do a lot of frying, you should consider buying a Class K fire extinguisher for your kitchen, which is specially designed for use on fats and cooking oils.
Now that your little kitchen mishap has been resolved without loss of life or property, it’s time to join your family in the living room for what promises to be a very exciting and well-played football game (again, we’re being positive here).