Most housefires start in the kitchen: how and why they happen

A person cooking a colourful vegetable stir fry in a pan on a gas stove

Nicola Dowse

Posted April 19, 2022


Love it or hate it, cooking is an unavoidable day-to-day task for most people. It’s also one of the most dangerous. 

Kitchens are the most common location for fires to start in the home, with cooking being one of the leading causes.

In the decade from January 2012 to December 2021, the Country Fire Association (CFA) responded to more than 15,000 residential fires. Of those, 35 per cent of fires that didn’t result in serious injury or death started in the kitchen, with cooking being the leading cause of all fires throughout the home.  

Kitchen fires can cause serious damage to your home as well as injury.

While it’s easy to be complacent in the kitchen, there are a few ways to help prevent fires and make sure both you and your food don’t get burnt.


Common causes of kitchen fires 

Cooking is the primary action causing fires to start in the kitchen, but it’s not the only catalyst. 

There are often several sources of heat within a typical kitchen, and these can lead to fires igniting.  

Ovens and stovetops are one source of heat, but toasters, faulty and frayed wiring, even overloaded power points are capable of starting fires.  

The CFA notes that unattended cooking is major cause of fires igniting in the home, and that most cooking fires they attended occurred between 6pm and 7pm.

 

A boy cracking an egg into a frypan as his mother watches on

Many kids enjoy helping out in the kitchen but it's important they're supervised at all times. Photo: Getty.


7 tips to reduce the risk of a kitchen fire
 

Never leave cooking unattended

Don’t walk away from boiling pots or heated pans. It’s easy for a pot to overboil if unattended, or for food to stick and catch fire if you’re not watching it 

Remove hazards

Keep flammable objects and materials away from heat sources. For example, don’t leave tea towels or kitchen paper close to the stove. Likewise, don’t place your toaster beneath curtains. 

Always making sure you keep pot and pan handles turned away from you can also help prevent fires and injuries. A handle facing out can be bumped or knocked over easily. 

Supervise children

It’s a great idea to teach kids about cooking, but make sure you’re always supervising them when in the kitchen. Children should never be left alone in the kitchen.

Keep it clean

A clean kitchen is also a safe kitchen. Wipe down your stovetop, oven and rangehood regularly to prevent oil, dust and grease from building up and potentially fuelling fires. 

Regularly cleaning out your toaster for crumbs can also help prevent fires. 


A woman wearing yellow rubber gloves, a crisp white shirt, tan pants and a hijab cleaning a shiny black stovetop with a cloth

Keeping your stove clean and free of grease can help prevent fires in the kitchen. Photo: Getty.


Check your appliances

Fires can be prevented by keeping appliances like toasters and microwaves clean and in good working order. Check the cords for damage and replace if worn.

Be prepared

Fires can start in even the safest kitchen, so it pays to be ready. The CFA recommends keeping a fire blanket and fire extinguisher in your home in the event of a fire breaking out.

The blanket and extinguisher should be stored somewhere that is easily accessed, but isn’t in the immediate cooking area. It’s recommended you only use the blanket or extinguisher if you feel physically and mentally capable to do so.

Smoke alarms

Fires can start quickly, taking hold in a room within three minutes. A working fire alarm can alert you within 30 seconds, helping keep your family safe. 

The CFA recommends installing fire alarms in every living area, hallway and bedroom. They also recommend connecting these alarms so that if one is triggered, all of them will. 

Also be sure to check your smoke alarm each year

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