How to Prevent Cooking Fires

Woman holding a pan on fire in the kitchen


Every year in the United States, hundreds of individuals are killed and thousands are injured due to accidental kitchen fires. Additionally, the NIH Fire Department frequently responds to calls in the workplace related to the careless use of microwave ovens, toasters, coffee makers and other kitchen appliances. Most of these incidents can be avoided by following some basic safety practices which will reduce the risk of kitchen related fires.

  • DO NOT LEAVE COOKING FOOD UNATTENDED – Stay in the kitchen whenever anything is cooking, and never leave food on the stove or in the oven when you are not at home. Be sure to turn off stoves and appliances promptly when you have finished cooking.
  • KEEP APPLIANCES CLEAN – An accumulation of grease can readily catch fire. Wipe appliance surfaces after any spills and clean both stove and oven surfaces regularly.
  • REMAIN ALERT – Research has indicated that approximately 43 percent of all cooking related deaths resulted from people falling asleep while cooking. Do not attempt to cook if you have been drinking alcoholic beverages, taking medication or feel drowsy.
  • WEAR CLOSE-FITTING SLEEVES – Loose sleeves or garments can touch hot stove burners and ignite. Protect yourself by wearing sleeves that fit snugly or, alternatively, securely roll up your sleeves when cooking. Clothing can catch on fire if you lean over stove burners.
  • KEEP COMBUSTIBLE OBJECTS CLEAR OF THE STOVE – Potholders, towels and curtains can ignite easily. Keep these items at a safe distance from your stove. Avoid storing items on or above your stove.
  • DO NOT OVERLOAD ELECTRICAL OUTLETS – Avoid plugging in too many heat producing appliances such as toasters, waffle irons, coffee makers or fryers in the same electrical outlet. This could overload your circuit, overheat and cause a fire. Keep heat producing appliances out from under cabinets and away from walls and curtains. Replace any frayed or cracked electrical cords immediately. If any kitchen appliance cords are frayed or cracked, do not use the appliance. Ensure that all fuses or circuit breakers are in good working order.
  • MICROWAVE SAFETY – While microwave ovens stay cool, the items we cook inside them get very hot. Use potholders when removing food items from microwave ovens. After heating, use care when removing lids to avoid steam burn injuries. If anything catches fire in your microwave oven, keep the door closed and turn off or unplug the oven. Opening the door will only feed oxygen to the fire and spread smoke to other areas. Do not use the microwave again until it has been serviced.
  • TURN POT HANDLES IN – Pot handles that stick out over the edge of your stove can be bumped or grabbed by a child. Prevent burns and stove-top fires by always turning pot handles toward the back of the stove.
  • HEAT OIL SLOWLY – Heat oil slowly over moderate heat and never leave hot oil unattended.

Remember, never pour water on a cooking fire. If a pan of food catches fire, carefully place a lid over the pan and turn off the stove. If a fire starts in the oven, close the oven door and turn off the heat source. Even when the flames go out, notify your local fire department immediately.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact the Division of the Fire Marshal at (301) 496-0487.

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