Did you know that almost 50% of all home cooking fires are caused by oil combustion?
An unexpected ignition can start an oil fire right in your kitchen, if you fail to give that oil enough supervision.
But don’t panic, we’re here to guide you through how to put out an oil fire in your kitchen.
How Does An Oil Fire Start?
These oil fires start when the oil reaches a hot enough temperature that it ignites, causing flames.
This temperature is referred to as a flashpoint, with different greases having different flashpoints:
- Butter 300 degrees F
- Lard 375 degrees F
- Extra Virgin Olive 375-400 degrees F
- Vegetable 400 degrees F
- Canola 400 degrees F
Just to name a few.
Not only will these flames burn extremely hot, but because of the oil’s fluidity as a liquid, the fire may spread quickly if not managed properly.
How To Stop An Oil Fire
Now, if you got a little distracted while you were frying your bacon or fries, and the oil was to ignite, this is how you can put out the fire:
- Cover the flames with a metal lid - When a fire starts in a pan, you should cover the flames with the pan/pot’s lid or a metal oven tray. This will quickly stop oxygen from reaching the fire, which it needs to burn, weakening the fire.
If possible, use metal tongs to place the cover, to keep your hands from burning. Avoid using glass lids because they can shatter under extreme heat. If the fire is in the oven, simply close the oven door.
- Turn off the heat source - The first thing you should do is turn off your cooking appliance. Removing the heat source is a very important step in combatting the fire.
- Smother the fire - After you’ve turned off the heat source and if the fire is relatively small, you could pour baking soda or salt on the fire. Baking soda repels the flames by releasing carbon dioxide as it smothers.
Whereas, salt creates a thick defensive layer between the fire and the oxygen. However, you’ll need a huge amount of salt or baking soda to effectively suffocate an oil fire.
The higher the flames, the less successful salt and baking powder become.
Alternatively, you could spray the fire with a fire extinguisher. But bear in mind that there are different types of fire extinguishers for different types of fires.
What Kind Of Fire Extinguisher Will Stop An Oil Fire?
It’s always handy to have an accessible fire extinguisher in your house, but it’s more important to know how to use it and what kind of fires it extinguishes.
Each tank is marked with a letter to differentiate which types of fire they fight. A Class K extinguisher is specifically designed to fight cooking fires.
As a wet chemical extinguisher, it works by spraying a soapy foam onto the fire, blocking the access to oxygen. It also cools down the fire.
If you don’t have access to a Class K extinguisher, you could also put out the fire using a Class B extinguisher.
This extinguisher is a dry chemicals extinguisher and it uses carbon dioxide to suffocate the fire. Working similarly to the baking soda we mentioned earlier.
The discharge from a Class B extinguisher is very cold, which helps to cool down the fire. But be careful not to breathe in too much of the mist because CO2 is not good for you.
However, you must not use a Class A-only fire extinguisher on oil fires. This is because Class A extinguishers are water-based and hot oil and water do not mix!
Oil Fire Faux Pas - What You Shouldn’t Do
To keep you and your family safe, here’s what you mustn’t do if you want to prevent a catastrophe:
- Never pour water over hot grease - It’s well known that water and oil won’t mix but pouring water on hot oil can be fatal!
When water is added to hot oil, the water immediately boils, exploding steam and hot oil everywhere. So resist the urge to put the pan under the sink because the situation could go south really quickly.
- Do not try to take the pot or pan outside - 60% of non-fatal fire-related home cooking injuries happened when the victim tried to fight the fire themselves.
You’re only putting yourself in more danger by handling the liquid. Do what you can to contain the fire but do not take matters into your own hands - because you’ll likely burn them.
- Do not use alternative cooking powders to baking soda and salt. Flour, sugar, or baking powder may resemble the two, but they will react vastly differently.
Flour and baking powder are highly combustible and will make the fire worse. Mixtures containing them must also be avoided.
What To Do If You Can’t Put Out The Fire
To put it bluntly, run! If all attempts at putting out the fire have proved unsuccessful, then you and your family need to exit the premises immediately in case the fire begins to spread rapidly.
Close the kitchen door and front door behind you to contain the fire. Then call 911 as soon as it’s safe to do so.
You must not re-enter the building until the firefighters have put out the fire.
These are the steps you should follow, should your oil fire become uncontrollable.
How To Prevent Oil Fires In The Future
Preventing a fire is the best way to stop a fire. With that in mind, here are a few things you could do to thwart an oil fire before it begins:
- Remove fire hazards away from cooking appliances; keep paper towels, plastic films and electronic devices away from hot oil.
- Keep a metal lid nearby in case your cooking grease does ignite. Then your reaction speed will nullify any threats.
- Do not overheat your oil. Heating your oil passed its flashpoint will increase the likelihood of a fire. Always take it slow and steady when heating cooking oils.
- Last but not least, keep your eyes on the stove! Pay attention to your cooking for any telltale signs of an oil fire. Generally, when oil starts to smoke, it means it could ignite at any moment.
To stop an oil fire, you should: cover the flames with a metal lid or sheet; suffocate the fire with enough baking soda or salt, or use a Class K fire extinguisher.
These three methods will deprive the fire of oxygen, which will weaken its strength.