The Most Common Cause of House Fires

cooking fireWhen I was researching for this blog, I was honestly shocked to learn that cooking fires are one of the leading causes of house fires in the winter. In my house I am not allowed to burn candles (which I thought for sure would be the leading culprit!) or have a real Christmas tree due to risk of a fire… but of course I am completely encouraged if not BEGGED by my husband and four children to cook! I’ve included below some statistics on cooking fires, and ways you can proactively prevent a cooking fire from occurring in your home.

Some Statistics

It did vary a little from state to state, but here are the estimated percentages I found for Minnesota.

Dinner time – 5 to 8 p.m. is the most common time for winter home fires.

  • Unattended cooking usually is the leading contributing factor in home cooking fires.
  • Two-thirds of home cooking fires started with the ignition of food or other cooking materials.
  • Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1% of these fires, but these incidents accounted for 16% of the cooking fire deaths.
  • Ranges accounted for the largest share (58%) of home cooking fire incidents. Ovens accounted for 16%.
  • Three of every five (57%) reported non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occurred when the victims tried to fight the fire themselves.
  • Frying poses the greatest risk of fire.

Cooking Fire Prevention Tips

Now that we know those facts here’s some tips to help avoid a cooking fire in your home:

  1. Never leave cooking food unattended – stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you have to leave the kitchen, even for a second, turn off the stove.
  2. Check your food regularly and make sure pot handles are turned in while cooking.
  3. Use a timer so you’ll remember that the stove or oven is on. With so much going on in my household all the time, I find this tip to be very useful and important.
  4. Don’t wear loose clothing (even those super cute infinity scarves) or dangling sleeves while cooking.
  5. Keep the kids away from the cooking area. Enforce a “kid-free zone” and make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  6. Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains—away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  7. Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  8. Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. You can even contact your local fire department to take a training on the proper use of extinguishers.
  9. Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  10. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.

While cooking fires are the most common types of fires during the wintertime, there are numerous other causes of fires that can occur, and we encourage you to read Other Causes of Home Fires and Ways to Prevent Them.