How does it happen?

I read a report of a multi-family dwelling fire that started in a kitchen. This scenario is one that plays out many times each day in our nation. The problem with this one was that the occupant received burns on their face, neck and arms. Cooking related fires is the leading cause of residential fires in America. The question is how does this type of fire hurt most people?

In many cases, the fire is caused by an unattended pan of grease or oil on the stove. The best way to handle this fire is to slide a cookie sheet or larger lid on the pan, and turn the burner off, if it can be done safely. The problem comes as the pan that was just on fire continues to smoke. People believe that they must remove the pan to the outside. This usually causes the lid to come off the pan, which allows the hot oil to re-ignite. The fire causes the person carrying it to drop it or spill burning oil on them or on the floor. Once the lid is in place, leave the pan, leave the building and call 9-1-1.

Another scenario to the injury is that a person throws water on the burning oil, causing it to splatter. The popping and splattering spreads the burning oil far beyond the pan that it started in. The extinguishing agent for oil fires is a Class BC or ABC fire extinguisher. Incidentally, the multi-family dwelling that caught fire the other day had a residential sprinkler system. This fire would have either been extinguished or kept in check by the sprinkler system, until fire units arrived.

There are other things that can cause a person to be burned in a kitchen fire, but the person becoming intimately involved with whatever is burning usually causes it. In other words, people come in direct contact with the fire by attempting to extinguish the fire or remove the burning pan. As I have written in these articles many times, it is your job to get yourself and your family out of a burning building safely. It is the job of the sprinkler system and trained firefighters to extinguish a fire.

Cooking is a full time job, requiring 100 percent of your attention. Telephone calls, sleeping, watching television, attending to children or stepping out of the kitchen for any reason can all cause enough distraction for a fire to get started. We Band-Aid this problem by putting up smoke alarms and install sprinkler systems. Do not get me wrong!

Sprinkler systems and smoke alarms save lives better than any other fire detection and extinguishing combination. The problem is that we have done nothing to fix the problem. Kitchen fires can be prevented.  

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