Campaign tackles top cause of house fires

Wed 31 Jan, 2018

Firefighters are backing a national safety campaign, running throughout February, which aims to encourage people to take extra care in the kitchen.

More than half of all accidental house fires in England are caused by mishaps involving cookers, grills, ovens and microwaves.

Over the last three months, there have been 85 accidental house fires in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, with 65  - more than three-quarters - starting in the kitchen.

Karen Lock from Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's community safety team said: "Nine of these fires were caused by electrical faults, but the remaining 56 were caused by cooking practices and behaviours such as falling asleep or being distracted while cooking, negligent use of equipment, or cooking wrappings being left too near the hob and and catching fire."

"Every single one of these fires placed people at unnecessary risk, and all of them were avoidable.

“It only takes a moment’s distraction, such as a phone call or a knock at the door, for a fire to start in your kitchen. We are urging people to put safety first when they are cooking.”

Karen's top tips for a safe kitchen are:

  • Don't start cooking if you are tired or have been drinking alcohol.
  • Keep the oven, hob, grill and toaster clean and in good working order. A build-up of fat, grease or crumbs can lead to a fire.
  • Double-check the cooker is off when you have finished cooking.
  • Don’t leave children in the kitchen alone when cooking on the hob. Keep matches, lighters and saucepan handles out of their reach.
  • Keep electrical leads, tea towels, dishcloths and other items which could catch fire away from the cooker or hob.
  • Don’t treat your hob as an extension of the kitchen worksurface. Items such as laundry and shopping should not be placed on it.
  • If you need to leave the kitchen while cooking, take pans off the heat or turn the heat right down to avoid risk.
  • Keep electrical leads and appliances away from water.
  • Don't put anything metal in your microwave oven, and please take care when setting the timer.
  • Look out for product recall notices, which are released in the media and listed on the Electrical Safety First product recall checker.
  • If you haven't already done so, register your domestic appliances on the Register My Appliance website.
  • Carry out a regular checks on your smoke alarms by pushing the "test" buttons. If you don't have smoke alarms, ring Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service on 01296 744477 or send an email to to book a free Home Fire Risk Check.

Cooking with hot oil

This carefully-controlled demonstration at a fire station open day shows how quickly a fire in a pan of overheated cooking oil can spread if it comes into contact with water.

The pictures were taken at intervals of one second. The firefighter poured the water out of a cup at the end of a long handle.

If a pan of cooking oil catches fire:

  • Don't move the pan.
  • Don't throw water over it - you will only spread the fire, and may injure yourself in the process.
  • Don't attempt to put the fire out yourself.
  • Turn off the heat if it is safe to do so. It may be safer to turn off the gas or electricity at the mains isolator.
  • Get out of your home, closing the doors behind you.
  • Call 999.
  • Stay outside.

You can reduce the risk of this type of fire starting by:

  • Making sure food is dry before putting it in hot oil so it doesn’t splash. If the oil starts to smoke, it’s too hot. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.
  • Never fill the fryer more than a third full of oil.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended when you are using it.
  • Using a thermostat-controlled electric deep fat fryer. They can’t overheat.