The Cause of the #1 Cause of House Fires

Picture of Katharine Dahl

fire1Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. This past Fire Prevention Week was dedicated to teaching people how to keep cooking fires from starting in the first place. Since more fires start in the kitchen than in any other part of the home, let’s examine how these kitchen fires start and how they can be prevented.

You may call your unclean stove top messy, but safety experts would call it dangerous.  Not cleaning your stove top can result in grease buildup, which is flammable.  If a grease or oil fire does occur, do not try to stop it with water. Water on a grease or oil fire will only make the fire bigger. Instead, smother the fire with a nearby pan lid or cookie sheet.

I am tempted to say a clean stove is a fire-free stove, but what it more accurate is a clean stove with a cleared surface is a fire-free stove.  Grease is not the only flammable object near your stove. Two-thirds of home cooking fires started with ignition of food or other cooking materials. Remember to keep oven mitts, wooden spoons, towels- anything that can catch fire- away from your stove.  Set up an even wider radius for your children and pets. Keep them at least three feet away from the stove and turn pots so the handles cannot be easily knocked down or pulled.

It’s important to keep items away from the stove, and even more important that you stay near. Unattended cooking was a factor in 34% of reported home cooking fires.  Never leave cooking food unattended! If you must leave the kitchen, turn off the stove, even if it is for a short period of time.

In the event you do face a kitchen fire, just get out! Make sure everyone in the home leaves right away. One-third of U.S. households thought they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in their home would become life threatening.  However, the time available to safely exit your home is often less. Once you leave, close the door behind you and call the fire department from outside and stay outside. You never should go back inside a burning building.

Fire Prevention Week has been around since 1924 making it the longest running public health and safety observance on record. It was created in 1920 to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, which killed over 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, and burned thousands of acres of land. In an effort to never see such devastation from a fire again, the public education campaign titled Fire Prevention Week commenced. You can read more about fire safety at