Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

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Turn off the heat, get out of the kitchen

Do you cook with oil at home? February is Cooking Safety Month: a Fire Kills campaign which looks to reduce fires caused by cooking. As part of this campaign, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) is offering advice on how to stay safe when using oil to cook.

According to government statistics, cooking is the single biggest cause of fires at home, accounting for 46 percent of fires in the UK last year.

A range of appliances are used in the kitchen to cook our food each day, from ovens to microwaves, slow cookers to deep-fat fryers. With all this heat and occasionally open flames, it’s unsurprising that the kitchen is the most common place for a house fire to start.

In the last three years, ECFRS has attended more than 650 fires caused by cooking, and 79 people have suffered injuries as a result.

Cooking substances, such as oil and fat, can catch fire easily, particularly when used in a frying pan or on a gas hob. This is why it’s important to make sure that you clean your kitchen regularly, particularly in areas where fat may splatter, such as the hob, extractor fan, surrounding tiles, and inside the oven or grill as fat can build up and will ignite easily in the event of a fire.

Head of Prevention at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, Will Newman, said “Throughout December, we saw an increase in the number of fires caused by cooking with oil. Oil fires often spread out of control quickly, and many people are seriously injured each year as a result of these types of fires.

“Instinctively, people often reach for water to extinguish a fire in the kitchen but dousing flames with water can turn an oil fire into a flaming fireball, which could damage your kitchen and cause nasty burns.

“If you are cooking with oil, it’s really important to take extra care and to keep an eye on the pan or fryer at all times.

“Make sure food is dry before putting it into the oil, and, if the pan starts to smoke while you’re cooking, it means it’s too hot - turn the heat off and leave it to cool.”

Even if you’re careful, it’s still possible that a pan could catch fire when cooking. If it does, remember:

  • Never throw water over an oil fire as it could create a fireball (see video below)
  • Don’t attempt to tackle the fire yourself or move the pan
  • If it’s safe to do so, turn off the heat
  • Leave the room, close the door and alert others in your home before going outside and calling 999

Don’t forget that fires can start in microwaves too! Always check that any items are safe for microwave use before you close the door, and never put metal cutlery or tin foil in a microwave.

For more cooking safety tips, visit: essex-fire.gov.uk/cooking-safety-advice

Do you have working smoke alarms at home?

Buying and fitting smoke alarms, and ensuring they are properly maintained, could give you those precious extra minutes to escape safely in the event of a fire.

We recommend you have at least one working smoke alarm on every level of your home, and that you test them at least once a month. Smoke alarms save lives.

If you or someone you know doesn’t have working smoke alarms, please get in touch. Visit essex-fire.gov.uk/book or call 0300 303 0088.

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