New Canaan Fire Marshal: Cooking Fire Safety


October 8-14, 2023 is National Fire Prevention week. This year’s focus is “Cooking Safety starts with YOU. Pay attention to fire prevention.”

Fire Marshal Paul Payne. Credit: Michael Dinan

Cooking related fire is one of the most common causes of home fires (not to mention automatic alarms!).  Following are a few tips on cooking safety so your meals can be as uneventful as they are delicious:

Many cooking fires occur when pots are placed on the stove to warm and then we get distracted by a phone call, a child calling or an interesting home repair show. To help avoid this set the timer for 3 – 5 minutes as a reminder to come back and check.

If a pot catches fire NEVER carry the pot to the sink, outdoors, etc. because as you walk the flames are coming right back towards you. Some folks have home fire extinguishers but great care must be exercised when using them on a flaming pot of oil. The agent discharges with great force and if pointed directly into the pot will cause it to spread all over (also the powder from the extinguisher makes a HUGE mess!). The best solution is to leave the pot where it is, put on an oven mitt and carefully cover the pan with its lid and turn off the heat source. If you don’t have the lid a flat cookie sheet will do the same thing – smother the fire.  Never remove the lid until the pot has cooled down substantially. Last, never use water on a hot grease fire, the resulting steam explosion will propel the burning oil throughout the kitchen.

Another common problem is turning on your self-cleaning oven without first cleaning heavy accumulations from the oven floor. As the oven heats up some of this product begins to burn and fill the kitchen with smoke. The good news is that this is not a big problem – the fire will not leave the oven. The bad news is that it will set off the smoke detectors (or you fire alarm system, if you have one) and smoke up the house. Turn off the oven and wait for it to cool down (you will not be able to open the oven until the temperature drops to a safe level).

Less common problems are items left on stoves that don’t belong and then the stove is turned on. Another is storing items in the oven that are combustible, usually something plastic which will make a big mess and smell horribly.

Finally, never hesitate to call 911 for a cooking fire; even if you think you have extinguished it fully.  Fire Fighters will respond to verify that everything is safe and the fire is completely extinguished.

For additional questions regarding kitchen fire safety or, any other fire safety questions please contact the Fire Marshal’s Office at 203-594-3030

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