The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that approximately 11,100 commercial kitchen fires occur each year. The NFPA also reports that cooking equipment is the primary cause of home fire injuries. Additionally, there were approximately 162,400 cooking-related fires between 2009 and 2013 in the home. These startling statistics emphasize the stark reality of kitchen fires. They also highlight the need for more people to be aware of how to respond to kitchen fires.
If these statistics don’t alarm you, a real-life story just might. In 2015, Western Mass news reported that Kathy Chapdelaine, an Easthampton Massachusetts resident, had completely lost her home due to a kitchen fire. That home held precious memories for her since it had been built by her late husband. Another story of devastation is a bit more recent. In May 2016, a popular pub in Rivington had to close its doors due to a devastating kitchen fire. Although the specific cause of the kitchen fire is unknown, the loss has severely impacted this business that began in 1871.
In response to the increasing need to minimize kitchen fires, Peter Thorpe (a Utah firefighter) invented the Fire Avert in 2011. Fire Avert is a device that automatically shuts off an electric stove when a fire threat is detected. The device is plugged directly into the wall and the electric stove is then plugged into the device. When a smoke detector in the kitchen is triggered, the device turns off the stove. The device consists of a microphone tuned to the unique frequencies of a smoke alarm. Nothing else will trigger the device except the sound of the smoke alarm.
Kitchen fires are often caused by cooking oil, fats or grease. Electricity is also a common source of kitchen fires. These fire sources are associated with class E and class F fires. Knowing which fire extinguisher to use to put out these classes of fires is crucial. Kitchen fire extinguishers are wet chemical fire extinguishers, carbon dioxide fire extinguishers, and dry chemical powder chemical fire extinguishers. Carbon dioxide and dry chemical powder fire extinguishers are specifically used in electrical fires. Wet chemical fire extinguishers are used for grease, oil and fat fires.
Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers
Potassium acetate is the primary ingredient in wet chemical fire extinguishers. Potassium citrate or potassium bicarbonate is also often added. A fine mist is dispelled from the extinguisher’s nozzle when the lever is pressed. This mist cools the fire’s heat and prevents the oil or grease from splashing. The potassium salts then react with the oil particles to create a thick, slippery layer of foam. The foam prevents the oil particles from fueling the fire. All of the extinguisher’s contents should be used to extinguish the fire.
When purchasing a wet chemical fire extinguisher, ensure that it is made of stainless steel. The chemicals have the potential to be corrosive and, therefore, must be contained in the right material.
Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers
Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers have a distinct design. They have a hard horn and no pressure gauge. They operate on the principle that carbon dioxide smothers oxygen. The interior of the extinguisher is filled with carbon dioxide that is compressed using extreme pressure. Since the carbon dioxide is stored at such great pressure within the container, it is very cold when it is dispelled. Its temperature greatly assists the cooling of the fire.
Dry Chemical Powder Fire Extinguishers
Dry chemical powder fire extinguishers are the most common fire extinguishers because they can be used on more than one class of fires. The premise of this extinguisher is to use an inert solid to cover the fire’s fuel. The dry chemical powder that is used in these extinguishers is comprised of sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, or monoammonium phosphate. When sprayed, the chemical covers the fuel which results in the fire being extinguished.
Steps for Using a Fire Extinguisher
It makes no sense having a kitchen fire extinguisher when you have no clue about how to use it. Regardless of the type of fire extinguisher you are using, the steps for using the extinguisher to stop the fire are the same. The steps are usually summarized using the acronym PASS.
P- Pull the Pin. At the top of every fire extinguisher is a small pin. When you pull the extinguisher’s pin, the extinguisher’s lock is released so that you can discharge the extinguisher’s contents.
A-Aim at the fire’s base. Fire extinguishers primarily seek to attack the fuel of the fire. Aiming at the base, not the flames, of the fire therefore allows the extinguisher’s contents to work effectively.
S-Squeeze the lever slowly. Squeezing the lever is what discharges the extinguisher’s contents.
S-Sweep from side to side. Move the extinguisher in a sweeping motion until the fire has been put out. Always ensure that you are a safe distance away from the fire. Read the fire extinguisher’s instructions to determine the appropriate distance for that particular extinguisher.
Tips for Maintaining Your Kitchen Fire Extinguisher
Maintaining your fire extinguishers is important. Don’t become complacent because a fire has never happened at your home or office. Be proactive by following these tips to properly maintain your fire extinguisher.
- Inspect your fire extinguisher once per month. During this inspection you should ensure that: the extinguisher’s pressure is where it should be, the nozzle is not compromised in any way, the pin and tamper seal are in one piece, and that there are no signs of wear and tear.
- Shake your dry chemical extinguisher once per month to prevent its contents from settling.
- Get a pressure test done on your fire extinguisher every few years.
- Recharge your extinguisher as soon as it has been used.
- Replace a damaged fire extinguisher immediately.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Take the necessary steps today to ensure that your home and office are protected from kitchen fires. Purchase the right class E and F fire extinguishers. Ensure that everyone in your home and office knows how to use them. Ensure that they are properly maintained.