8 July, 2015
Kitchen Safety — Controlled Pyrotechnics
I received a comment from a reader, not too long ago, suggesting I write a piece on fire safety.
“Suggestion: In a later post (yes I’m reading these backwards) you instruct your loyal readers how to incinerate their kitchen a la flambe. How about a post on kitchen first aid and fire suppression? After all minor accidents while cooking are almost inevitable; knowing what to do can mean the difference between calling 911 and just starting over.”
Considering I have since taught you guys how to ignite your house with a thermos, giving you a fire safety lesson probably isn’t a bad idea, after all. I’ll post a piece on first aid while I’m away, next week (I’m leaving tomorrow for Boise, again).
We’ll go through a list of different inferno situations, how they can start, and what you can do to put them out. If I happen to miss any, ask me in the comments and I’ll find you an answer.
Before we begin with fire safety, I want to make it VERY clear that every home should have a fire extinguisher in their kitchen. Mine is on the wall outside of my apartment (my kitchen is right by my exterior door).
If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, go out and buy one today and hope you never have to use it.
And now, fire safety…
All of the suggestions below should only be attempted if they can be done safely. If not, get out of the house and call 911.
Whether you’re deep frying a turkey for Thanksgiving (which I would totally recommend trying at least once) or pan-frying bacon on a gas stove and a little spills over the edge, grease fires can be scary.
The danger is when you have an open flame of some kind and hot oil or grease. In the case of deep frying a turkey, for example (which should ALWAYS be done outside in an open area, on pavement), water from the cleaned turkey might drip into the hot oil and spatter. The spatter not only poses a threat to the cook (who can get burned), but it can also catch on fire.
While you will hopefully never have to deal with a fireball situation like the one in the gif above, small grease fires (like the one already burning in the pan before water is poured on it) are a real possibility.
In the event of a grease fire, this is what you should do:
- Turn the heat off — Make sure you don’t move the pot, as that could splash oil on yourself or on parts of the kitchen, complicating… well, a lot of things.
- Cover the pot/pan with a metal lid — By covering the fire, you deprive it of oxygen, suffocating the flame. A glass lid may shatter, so the metal lid is important.
- Spray the pot with an ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher — This is a bit of a last resort, but if the fire starts to get out of hand, this is the way to go.
- Get out of the house and call 911 — If the fire is out of your control, do the smart thing and leave it to people who are trained to handle fires.
- Throw water on the fire — See the gif above.
- Move the pot/pan — See the reasoning for point 1 above.
- Throw anything else on the fire, like flour — The dust particles will catch fire and have a similar effect to the water.
- Turn off the oven — This will take away the heat source (gradually, anyway).
- Keep the oven door closed — This will suffocate the fire and prevent it from growing or spreading.
- Call the fire department — If the fire doesn’t start shrinking in size after steps 1 and 2, call the pros and get out of the house.
- Turn off the microwave — No more radiation, no more heat/electric arcing, no more fire.
- Keep the microwave door closed — While there won’t be any additional fire starting, the existing fire will have to chew through its oxygen before it goes out.
- Call the fire department — If the fire is more than a little one, this is probably the best course of action.
- Unplug the problem — This should *only* be followed if you can safely unplug the faulty cord. If not…
- Get out of the house and call 911 — Regardless of whether or not you can unplug the cord, call 911 ASAP and make sure you are safely out of and away from the house.