What do you put on a grease fire?
A few years ago, a local TV station did a very nice piece on Grease fires in the kitchen. For the most part, I thought it was well done and informative. However, during their interview with Mike Allendorf, Okolona Fire Department Fire Marshal, as they discussed what to throw on a grease fire, I was shocked when I heard the following statement: “Most of us have heard of using baking soda to put out a fire, but if you don’t have that you can use white flour, cake mix, or any dry powder in your kitchen.”
Let me assure you this is not a good idea and should not be tried! Don’t use any powder type household item to put out a kitchen grease fire. If suspended and the right particle size, you are inviting an undesired and violent reaction. Flour dust suspended in air is explosive — as is any mixture of a finely powdered flammable substance with air (see flour dust explosion). Some devastating and fatal explosions have occurred at flour mills, including an explosion in 1878 at the Washburn “A” Mill in Minneapolis, the largest flour mill in the United States at the time.
If you don’t believe me, just do a YouTube search for Flour Explosion or Flour Fire and take a look.
A research document produced by the National Fire Protection Association “HOME FIRES INVOLVING COOKING EQUIPMENT” has the following statement on page 19: “Using flour, baking soda, salt, or other substances as an extinguishing agent – This approach can be ineffective because it is dangerous to get close enough to the fire to apply materials like this and it is difficult to achieve full coverage sufficient to smother the fire. Also, some of these substances, such as flour, can be ignited.”
Here is a good ABC story that is a few years old now, but still relevant: Holiday Cooking Hazards: Life-Saving Reminders.
So please, no matter what you may have heard from your mother, grandmother, or your local news media, don’t throw flour or any other powdery substance you may find in the kitchen cabinet on a grease fire, or any fire for that matter.
How to be prepared for a stove top or kitchen grease fire
If you are thinking ahead, here are a couple neat little devices that may mean the difference between an “oh wow” moment or a complete disaster.
Can you use a fire extinguisher on a grease fire?
The short answer is yes. You should use a multipurpose (ABC) or Class B fire extinguisher and not a water-based extinguishing agent. Have the fire extinguisher close by. Remember the following tips always “Cook with Caution.”
- Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or cooktop.
- Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
- Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains— away from your stovetop.
If you have a fire:
- Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
- Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
- If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
- Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. In many instances, smothering is what puts out a grease fire the best. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
- For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
Fire extinguishers can save a life if they’re properly maintained. Download our fire extinguisher inspection checklist to make sure yours will be in top condition in the event of a fire.