Take steps to prevent kitchen fires

Farm Forum

When I arrived at my apartment many years ago, I noticed a smoky “electrical” aroma. I found my college roommate in the kitchen near our landlord, who had his head in our oven.

“What’s going on?” I asked both of them.

“The heating element started on fire. I’m just replacing it,” our landlord replied calmly.

“I thought the apartment building was going to burn down. I could practically see all of your pictures on fire!” my roommate exclaimed dramatically. She knew I liked my framed posters.

I was just glad that fire trucks weren’t filling our parking lot.

Fortunately, my roommate had turned off the oven and kept the oven door closed. The flames died down and finally went out on their own.

Kitchen fires are the most common cause of home fires. Range or cooktop fires are responsible for the vast majority of fires, injuries and deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

You can do many things to help prevent fires and potential injury in your own kitchen. You might be able to manage small fires contained to a frying pan; however, the safety of you and your family is the most important. If the fire is growing, leave the house quickly, call 911 and let the trained professionals do their work.

Think about these questions:

• When you are frying meat or other foods, do you leave your pans unattended? Fats and oils can heat to a point where they ignite. Grease fires can escalate and spread quickly, so be sure to heat the oil slowly and stay in the kitchen. Broiling and grilling are other cooking techniques associated with more fires than other methods.

• Do you wear clothes with long, loose sleeves? Do you have long hair? Your clothing and even your hair can catch on fire. Wear a short sleeve-shirt or securely roll up your sleeves. Tying back your hair is good advice from a food sanitation perspective, too. No one likes hair in his or her food.

• Are your potholders square or round? Did you know that mitts or round pot holders are considered safer than square ones? Large square potholders that are folded into triangles are more likely to catch fire if the fabric drapes onto a heat source.

• Do you keep anything flammable near your stove? Keep newspapers, napkins, paper towels and mail away from the stove. Although using the flat top of a stove as extra counter space may be tempting, that’s not a good idea, either. Someone could bump the controls accidentally.

• What steps would you take if a pan of food ignited and the fire was contained in the pan? If you were thinking “put a lid on it,” that would be a good first step. Fires need oxygen and a lid can smother the flames effectively. Turn off the burner carefully, too. Baking soda can function as a fire extinguisher for small fires. However, don’t throw water on a kitchen fire because it can cause the fire to spread quickly. Of course, don’t carry a burning pan outside where the flames can ignite other objects in your home.

• Do you have a kitchen fire extinguisher? An extinguisher labeled “ABC” works on a variety of fires (paper, grease, etc.). Be sure to review the directions that accompanied the extinguisher.

If a fire should occur, experts suggest using the “PASS” technique. PASS is an acronym that means you should “pull” the pin and then “aim” at the base of the fire. Next “squeeze” the lever that releases the extinguishing agent. Finally, “sweep” from side to side until the fire goes out.

Before leaving your home or going to bed, check that the stove is off.

Don’t be afraid to cook and bake, though. Keep an eye on the crust if you try this fruit pizza, which is modified to have less fat and calories. The recipe is courtesy of the Iowa State University Extension “Spend Smart Eat Smart” program.

MmmmmGood Fruit Pizza

Cookie crust

1 large egg white

1/4 c. cooking oil (canola, sunflower, etc.)

1/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed

1/3 c. all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 c. uncooked quick-cooking oatmeal

Cooking spray


3 ounces of fat-free cream cheese, softened

3 ounces of (half of a 6-ounce carton) nonfat vanilla yogurt

Sliced fruit to top the pizza (your choice: kiwi, strawberries, mango or grapes)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Beat the egg white until foamy. Add oil and sugar and beat until smooth. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon and baking soda. Add to the sugar mixture. Stir in oatmeal. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Spread the dough in a 9-inch circle. Bake for 12 minutes. Crust will begin to puff but does not look “done.” Remove from oven and let cool about 20 minutes. The crust continues to cook while cooling.

In a small bowl, stir together the cream cheese and yogurt until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool. Transfer the crust to a serving plate. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the crust. Arrange fruit on top. Cut into wedges and serve or refrigerate up to two hours, covered and uncut.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 190 calories, 8 grams (g) of fat, 26 g of carbohydrate, 5 g of protein, 2 g of fiber and 130 milligrams of sodium.