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


Posted September 25, 2023

Kitchens are the most common location for fires to start in the home, with cooking being one of the leading kitchen fire causes. Here's how to prevent a kitchen fire in your home.

It's important to be vigilant about fire safety in the kitchen. Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) and the Country Fire Association (CFA) responded to around 900 kitchen fires across Victoria in 2022, with unattended cooking being one of the most common causes of preventable house fires. 6pm is the peak time that triple zero dispatch CFA brigades to homes due to unattended cooking.

Kitchen fires can cause serious damage to your home as well as injury. Over the last 10 years, the CFA reports that 15 per cent of fire-related fatalities and serious injuries have occurred from kitchen fires. Here 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 

Unattended cooking is the primary cause of fires starting in the kitchen, but it’s not the only catalyst.

Frayed wiring, overloaded power points or faulty appliances such as ovens, stovetops and toasters are all capable of starting kitchen fires.


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 that they're supervised at all times. Image: 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.

"We understand there’s lots to do around the home, but it’s crucial to be aware of your kitchen environment and reduce the risk of fire by staying near the stove," Fire Rescue Commissioner Gavin Freeman said.

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. More than 50 per cent of children who attended an emergency department in 2021-22 were injured at home, according to research by Monash University. Help keep your kids safe by never leaving them alone in the kitchen.

Keep it clean

A clean kitchen is also a safe kitchen. Wipe down your stove top, oven, griller and range hood 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.


person cooking food on a gas stove

Keeping your stove clean and free of grease can help prevent fires in the kitchen. Image: 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 even start in 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.

"If a fire does start in the kitchen, turn off the stove if it’s safe to do so," Commissioner Freeman said. "Use a fire extinguisher or fire blanket if you are confident in their use, evacuate everyone from the home, close the kitchen door and call Triple Zero."

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 smoke alarms powered by a 10 year-long life battery in all sleeping and living areas of their home. They also recommend connecting these smoke alarms so that if one is triggered, all of them will alert you. If you're unsure, qualified professionals can supply and install smoke alarms in your home. 

Be sure to check your smoke alarm each year and regularly clean it. Leave it to qualified professionals if you’re not comfortable changing a smoke alarm battery yourself, or working at height on a ladder.


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