Kitchen Fire Safety

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Building codes over the last hundred years have been very effective in reducing the number of home fires resulting from basic home systems but whenever humans are involved, there is always the possibility for something to go wrong. 


In particular, kitchens are a very dangerous place for fires to start as we have heat producing equipment, flammable materials (oil, cloths, food), and many distractions from spilled milk to salad preparation. A few of the most common concern areas for fires are:


  1. Cooktops - Food left unattended, high cooking temperatures, or nearby flammable materials can ignite materials unexpectedly
  2. Exhaust Systems - Years of build up grease hidden in exhaust systems can be ignited by a small cooktop kitchen fire and continue to burn inside the walls of the home.
  3. Gas Appliances - Gas is an excellent method for cooking but it is a ready point of ignition for flammable materials.
  4. Countertop Appliances - Countertop appliances have increased wear to electrical cords, sometimes are in poor repair (or poorly made), and may not be placed in the safest of locations for high heat. All these factors increase risks of fires.


Protecting Homes from Kitchen Fires

Kitchens in and of themselves are typically not fire risks. It is the addition of human activity that creates the additional fire risks. So to keep us safe from kitchen fires, it is really about the activities we do to keep ourselves safe:


  • Cleanliness - Grease and oil buildups are major causes of out-of-control kitchen fires. Keeping cooking equipment clean and maintained (such as those range hood filters) can significantly reduce out of control kitchen fires
  • Tidiness - Cluttered kitchen surfaces with papers, cloths, extra pots and pans can increase the chances flammable materials will come into contact with ignition sources. Only keep out what you need in a kitchen for the current activity.
  • Attention - As anyone with kids can attest to, it can be easy to get distracted when making meals for a family but even just stepping out to watch a moment of the big game on the TV could be long enough for an unexpected fire to start.
  • Education - Parents need to teach kids safe kitchen use and only let suitably aged children use equipment (and of course kids should teach parents if the parents don’t know better)
  • Fire Extinguisher - The difference between a raging house fire and a story at the dinner table could be a readily accessible fire extinguisher. This extinguisher should be located between a potential fire and a potential exit from the room. Under the kitchen sink may not be an accessible location in a fire.


Final Thoughts

As a home inspector, I’m always concerned about my clients safety and I would say that most homes I inspect DON’T have a readily accessible fire extinguisher in the kitchen. As a kitchen fire can happen very quickly even when care is taken for prevention, an extinguisher may be the best protection clients can invest in to protect the home, and its occupants, from a kitchen fire.


By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.