Fire in the Kitchen! Can you put it out?
My father was a firefighter starting in the Navy and then for a local fire department. It was cool to have a Dad that was a firefighter because I was able to visit him at the firehouse and climb on the fire trucks, try on my Dad’s boots and helmet, and get a soda out of the soda machine. I don’t know why the soda was exciting, but as a kid that is something that I looked forward to while visiting my Dad.
Another thing that was memorable about having a firefighter for a Dad is that during Fire Prevention Week, he came to visit my class at school to teach us tips about fire safety. Things like “Stop, Drop, and Roll” and knowing where the emergency exits were at home, school, the mall, and pretty much everywhere.
I learned two other fire safety tips for the kitchen, which is where most home fires begin.
First, let’s talk fire extinguishers. Yes, you need at least one (probably two) if you live in a home, condo, or apartment. I can even guess where you probably keep your fire extinguisher- underneath the kitchen sink. Am I correct? Guess where one of the worst places to keep fire extinguishers? Under the kitchen sink! Why? Because imagine there is a fire on your kitchen stove. It is producing thick black smoke and the flames are getting bigger rapidly. Are you going to be able to access the fire extinguisher under the sink? Probably not. And now the fire is consuming your kitchen cabinets and spreading to other rooms.
So where would be a good place for a fire extinguisher? I would suggest having it at an exit door away from the kitchen (such as your front door) because if the fire gets too big to put out with your fire extinguisher, you are already by an exit to make your escape. You can also have it attached to the wall leading to a basement in case there is a basement fire or kitchen fire. Or a front hallway closet. Just not in the kitchen sink because
you will likely not have access to it when you need it.
Secondly, your family should know how to put out a grease fire on the stove or oven. Last year, after one of our customers had a kitchen grease fire that destroyed their kitchen and parts of their first level of their home I asked our children (most of them are pre-teen to teenagers) what they would do if they had a grease fire while cooking something. All of them said that they would throw water on that fire to put it out. I was horrified because that is a great way to burn the house down quickly. Don’t believe me? Watch this video and this other example! As you can see, water is one of the WORST things you can put on a grease fire!
Some people will try to put out the grease fire with a towel or kitchen rag. The fire can catch onto the towel and you can possibly spread the fire that way. If the towel is wet, that is going to feed the fire and do more harm than good. If you try to fan the fire with the towel to try to blow the fire out, all you are really doing is feeding the fire more oxygen to make the fire bigger. Don’t do that.
If the grease fire is small, you can cover the pan with a metal lid (not a glass lid or a porcelain lid) to take away the oxygen and hopefully snuff out the fire. If you don’t have a metal lid handy, you can use a cookie sheet to cover the pan. Of course, be safe trying to access these kitchen accessories. Another method is to douse the flames with baking soda or salt (not flour or baking powder…baking soda and salt). As a last resort, you can put the fire out with the fire extinguisher that you now store close to your front door and not under your kitchen sink.
If the fire is too big to handle yourself, leave the home immediately and call 911. It is not worth trying to save your kitchen if it puts you or family members in danger.
Fires do happen every day. It is important that you have a conversation with your family members about fire. Every family member including children should know:
• How to exit the home quickly in case of fire and have a pre-determined meeting place outside.
• Where the fire extinguisher is.
• What to do (and what not to do) in case of a grease fire.
My kids did not know what to do in case of a grease fire. My customer did not know where his fire extinguisher was even though he passed it every single day (it was hanging in plain sight on the wall).
We are all guilty of assuming that we know what to do in case of a fire. We also assume that our children know what to do. I know that I was shocked to hear the answers all of our kids gave me about grease fires. It is critically important that we all have a family discussion and a plan in case a fire happens.
It just may save a life.
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