6 common kitchen mistakes that start fires

By Vanessa Racine, social media coordinator
More time at home during the pandemic has led to more kitchen time. Many of us have found ourselves baking and cooking more, from perfecting a classic sourdough bread to preparing lunch now that many of us work remotely.  With all this increased kitchen action, there’s also bound to be accidents.
Kitchen fires are the leading cause of home fires in Canada. Take a look at some common habits that may lead to a kitchen fire:

Leaving the kitchen while cooking

A woman panicking at a stove with a pot on fireWalking away from your kitchen while cooking is the top cause of kitchen fires, according to the Canadian Fire Safety Association. If you need to leave briefly to use the bathroom or answer the door,  turn the stove off. Those few moments you’re gone are just enough for a fire to start.

Too many distractions

Multi-tasking can be beneficial in certain situations, but not while cooking. Your full attention is needed, free of distractions from your phone, television or those around you. This helps keep everyone safe, including yourself and your home. Distractions can not only significantly slow down your reaction time, or result in injuries and burns, but can greatly increase the risk of a kitchen fire starting. An unsupervised pan on the stove is a disaster waiting to happen.

Using your stove as a countertop

Cooking can get hectic and messy! Many home cooks run out of countertop space and resort to using their stove as a last-minute option. Sometimes, too, you may have an unconscious habit of placing a towel or utensil on the stove top.  Placing a flammable item such as a hand towel, plastic container or oven mitts can easily start a fire, including items you may place a little too close to a hot burner.

Wearing loose clothing

That cute oversized sweater you just bought for winter can also catch on fire if it gets too close to an active burner. While aprons help keep clothing clean, it doesn’t stop loose-fitted clothing like hanging sleeves or scarves from putting the cook at an increased risk of harm. A simple act of reaching over to pick up a pot can lead to an item of clothing catching fire. To protect yourself, it’s always best to switch into something more snugly fitted or roll up your shirt sleeves before you start cooking.

Frying food on high heat

Kitchen fires caused by cooking oil lead to the most destructive and damaging types of home fires, according to the Canadian Fire Safety Association. If you must cook with oil, make sure to use oils that can handle high temperatures. Additionally, regularly cleaning your stove or oven will get rid of any built up grease, reducing the risk of a kitchen fire. If you’re frying food and see smoke, or the grease start to boil, immediately remove the pan from the stove and turn off the burner.

Your kitchen is not equipped with a fire extinguisher

Fire extinguishers are an affordable necessity. Having one within arm’s reach in your kitchen not only prevents fire damage to your home, but it can also save your life. Stop by a store on your way home from work to pick one up so that you can rest assured that you are prepared for a sudden fire, should it ever happen. There are several extinguisher size options available, including apartment-sized extinguishers for those living in smaller spaces. Check your fire extinguisher’s condition and levels often, and refill when needed so that you always have help on hand in case of a kitchen fire.
Whether you’re an accomplished cook or just learning, cooking is a practical and necessary activity that can bring good memories and full stomachs, when done safely. No matter your skill or confidence level in the kitchen, taking precaution from these tips can keep your home safer from fire.  Finally, it’s important to test your smoke alarms monthly and make an emergency plan.
Learn more safety tips and to learn how the Red Cross helps people affected by home fires.

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