Essex County Fire and Rescue Service


Cooking fire safety

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has warned people to take extra care while cooking, with many distractions and hazards turning a simple meal into disaster.

With school year ending in three weeks, children will be competing for attention as they spend more time in the home and around the kitchen while meals are being prepared.

Distractions like tablets, smart phones, computers or the television can all add to the risk of a fire breaking out.

Divisional Officer Neil Fenwick said: “There are many potential dangers while cooking but these are increased by a whole range of distractions throughout the home.

 “Children will also be demanding your attention as they spend more time around the home during the summer school break, which might mean you take your eye off the hob or oven.

 “Getting them involved with cooking their favourite meals is a great way of teaching them about cooking fire safety this summer. It’s vital that your family know what to do if the worst should happen.”

Statistics for last year reveal that three quarters of the house fires in Essex started in the kitchen with distraction while cooking being a major cause of house fires throughout the County. Each year the Service is called to around 500 kitchen fires, nearly 10 a week.

The Service has issued the following summer cooking safety messages:

Cooking safety

  • Avoid leaving children in the kitchen alone when cooking on the hob.  Keep matches and saucepan handles out of their reach to keep them safe.
  • Make sure saucepan handles don’t stick out – so they don’t get knocked off the stove.
  • Take care if you’re wearing loose clothing – this can easily catch fire.
  • Keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob.
  • Double check the cooker is off when you’ve finished cooking.
  • Take care if you need to leave the kitchen whilst cooking, take pans off the heat or turn them down to avoid risk.

Take care with electrics

  • Keep electrics (leads and appliances) away from water.
  • Check toasters are clean and placed away from curtains and kitchen rolls.
  • Keep the oven, hob and grill clean and in good working order.  A build-up of fat and grease can ignite a fire.

Deep fat frying

  • Take care when cooking with hot oil – it sets alight easily.
  • Make sure food is dry before putting it in hot oil so it doesn’t splash.
  • If the oil starts to smoke – it’s too hot.  Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.
  • Use a thermostat controlled electric deep fat fryer.  They can’t overheat.
  • If your pan catches fire, turn off the heat if it is safe to do so.  Never throw water over it.

Outdoor cooking

  • Enjoy yourself, but don’t drink too much alcohol if you are in charge of the barbecue or any cooking!
  • Keep a bucket of water, sand or a garden hose nearby for emergencies.
  • Follow the safety instructions provided with disposable barbecues.
  • Never use a barbecue indoors.
  • Never use petrol or paraffin to start or revive your barbecue; use only recognised lighters or starter fuels on coal.
  • Never leave a barbecue or any cooking unattended.
  • Make sure your barbecue is well away from sheds, fences, trees, shrubs or garden waste.
  • Empty ashes onto bare garden soil, not into dustbins or wheelie bins.  If they’re hot, they can melt the plastic and start a fire.

The best way to stay safe in the home is to fit and regularly test your smoke alarm. If you would like to arrange for a free home safety visit, during which smoke alarms will be fitted free of charge, then call us on 0300 303 0088, email or visit

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