Category Archives: kitchen safety

House Fire for the Holidays

fire in the kitchen, kitchen fire quiz, cooking fire advice

Cooking oil flames burn fast and high.

Tis the Season for most deadly kitchen fires, say authorities.  How safe is your family? Can you pass the quiz below?

I was drifting between channels looking for something that didn’t involve reality, when reality intruded. A hysterically loud, tinny skreeeling from the smoke detector in the kitchen.

My record for not burning things is pretty good, but I hustled in there anyway.  There was a tang and haze of smoke, all right.  I tracked it back to the oven, which I’d left to pre-heat for dinner.  I checked for flames, popped the door.  After the cloud rolled out I could see something had spilled onto the oven bottom, and it was now busy pumping out special effects in the kitchen.  I  started throwing open windows and doors, then waving cookie pans.  The alarm kept up its nerve-grating howl, and the kids appeared, hands over ears, at the dining room.

“It’s ok”, I shouted uselessly, then smiled, trying to clear the air.

The whole episode got us talking about fires, what to do, and not to do, and I decided to brush up.  Which is how I found that home fires are actually part of the Holiday tradition.  With men spending more time cooking, it pays to stay up to speed on kitchen hazards that can affect the family.

Here’s a little quiz to check if you’re up to date on important fire and safety knowledge.  Answers at the bottom.

1.  The most common cause of home fires is:

a)  candles

b)  cooking

c)  heating and chimneys

2.  The greatest risk for starting a kitchen fire is:

a) broiling

b) baking

c) frying

3.  What percent of all deaths due to fire occur in the home?

a) 24

b) 58

c) 81

4. What percent of American homes have fire extinguishers?

a) 36

b) 47

c) 64

5.  The most common reason cooking fires start is

a) leaving food cooking unattended

b) spilling food on the stove

c) overheating appliances

6. You should only use a fire extinguisher if

a) the fire is confined to small area and isn’t spreading

b) everyone else has left the building

c) someone has called the fire department

d) the room isn’t filled with smoke

7.  You’re more likely to end up in the emergency room with a scalding burn from

a) using your microwave oven

b) spilling a boiling liquid

c) taking a dish out of a conventional oven

8.  In the US, this many home fires are started by microwave ovens each year

a) 880

b) 4400

c) 6600

9.  The recommended place to keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen is

a) very close to the stove

b) very close to the microwave

c) next to an exit from the kitchen


1. (a) Cooking fires account for nearly 40% of all home fires in the US.

2. (c)  Frying is by far the most likely to start a fire.  Oil will flame if it gets hot enough.

3. (c)  The home is a much more dangerous place than work.

4. (b)  Less than half of all homes have one in the kitchen.

5. (a)  Nobody plans to start a fire.  They’re just distracted from the stove by something.

6.  Alright, it’s a trick question. Authorities say you should NOT use an extinguisher unless you have a, b, c, AND d.  They also point out that three out of every five non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occur when victims tried to fight the fire themselves.

7. (a)  Microwave ovens boil the same way as open flame, and carelessly handling or opening a covered dish is an invitation to burn.  Eleven percent of scald burns, and 5% of all microwave oven injuries are to children under five years of age.

8. (c)  6600 fires a year.  Everybody knows how to use them.  But what if the food inside starts to burn? Keep the door closed, turn it off.  Don’t open the door if there’s any chance it hasn’t gone out. And get it checked before using.

9. (c)  If your extinguisher is too close to the fire, you won’t be able to reach it. And if you use an extinguisher, you should have your back to the exit and be ready to bolt.

* If you want to see the National Fire Prevention authorities checklist about being prepared and what to do, I’ve put their entire cooking fire safety information and instructions at Kitchen 911, with links to more  sites.

It’s worth the time and effort to brush up, for the kids.

Information above is from the National Fire Prevention Association.