Putting Out a Grease Fire

If there is currently a grease fire in your kitchen, you should probably get off the computer and call the fire department. Now is too late to learn about fire safety.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking fires are the leading cause of house fires. If fact, 42% of all house fires start in the kitchen.

So how does one prevent them, or at least mitigate the damage if one occurs? Be there, says one government official in charge of fire safety. Unattended cooking is considered the primary reason that houses are destroyed – just a small amount of misplaced oil or a pan a bit too hot can cause the oil to ignite, engulfing a kitchen in seconds, not minutes.

Is the latest episode of NCIS or Sunday Night Football worth burning down a house? Probably not, but as the two most popular shows of 2013, they have probably contributed to at least one kitchen fire.

If grease flares up, smothering is the best method, such as with a pan lid. A kitchen towel can be used, although care should be taken to ensure that it doesn’t ignite.

While water will usually just spread the flaming oil, baking soda can be used to smother the flames, but NEVER use flour. Airborne dust particles of kitchen flour are highly flammable, and can even cause a flash explosion in an enclosed area.

A small fire extinguisher can be a worthwhile investment. A five-pound model (measured by the amount of chemical inside) will generally provide between 10 and 15 seconds of use. A model rated for “ABC” will extinguish all three major types of fire, including electrical fires.

When putting out a grease fire, stand back while using an extinguisher. The pressure of the chemical may splash the oil, and even if it isn’t on fire, it will still be hot enough to cause severe burns. Aim the extinguisher at the source of the flames, usually the base of the fire.

Once a fire extinguisher is used, even if not completely, it should be recycled, and replaced with a full unit.

It’s important to teach everyone in the household how to use the fire extinguisher, as well as other elements of fire safety, but it’s best to develop the habit of paying close attention to those French fries.

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