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Cooking with Fire

Cooking with Fire

JOSEPH M. DOOLEY
Safety & Occupational Health Specialist
Womack Army Medical Center
Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Everything was going great. My wife and I were excited our eldest daughter and her husband traveled from Oklahoma for a visit. After enjoying my wife’s delicious cooking during the week, they wanted to do something special and prepare a meal for us. My wife was happy about getting a night off from the kitchen and I was pleased to hear the meal would consist of stuffed bell peppers with fried rice and bow tie pasta — one of my favorites!

After showing my son-in-law where to find everything they would need in the kitchen, he told us to go outside and relax on the deck while they got to work preparing the meal. They got no resistance from us, and we made our way outside to enjoy the beautiful evening and wait for dinner. We were enjoying some quiet conversation when we heard our youngest daughter scream from inside the house.

I rushed inside to find my son-in-law carrying a flaming pan of grease to the kitchen sink. It wasn’t a very big flame, but it was still enough to cause everyone in the house great concern, especially my son-in-law. As I yelled, “Don’t do it!” he turned on the faucet and water poured over the fire. The flames immediately shot to the ceiling in front of his face and spattered hot grease on his hands. Still in a panic and before anyone could stop him, he picked up the still-flaming pan and took it out to the garage. This wasn’t the best thing to do either since my wife and I park our vehicles there. I ran out after him with an extinguisher and put out the fire.

With the danger now behind us, we turned our attention to my son-in-law’s condition. Fortunately, he wasn’t seriously injured. He did have a few minor spot burns on his right wrist, and his hair was singed a bit in the front. Our white kitchen ceiling had turned black from the flames, but it wasn’t badly damaged either. My son-in-law felt awful about the fire and repeatedly apologized. I told him it was just an accident and there was no need to apologize, but I could tell he was upset about what happened.

After the excitement finally subsided, I used this experience to explain the proper procedures to follow in the event of a grease fire. First and foremost, never use water to attempt to extinguish a grease fire. Water repels grease and can spread the fire by splattering it. If the fire is small, cover the pan with a lid and turn off the burner. You can also smother a small grease fire with baking soda, but it will take a lot to properly extinguish the flames. If neither of those techniques work, spray the pan with a Class B dry chemical fire extinguisher. (Our extinguisher was located in a cabinet next to the stove.) Remember to never move the pan while it is on fire. While taking it outside might seem logical in the frenzy of the moment, burning grease could splash on you, your home and anything outside. Of course, if the fire does grow out of control, get out of the house immediately and call 911.

Although everything turned out OK and nobody was seriously hurt, this accident could have ended in disaster. Being in the safety field for a number of years, I pride myself on making sure my family is safety conscious in everything we do. As a matter of fact, I had previously gone over a grease fire scenario with my wife and youngest daughter and made sure they knew what to do. I did not, however, make sure my visiting daughter and son-in-law were aware of the proper procedures, nor did I tell them where our fire extinguisher was located.

We all learned some valuable lessons that night. My daughter and her husband learned how to put out a grease fire. I learned to make sure our houseguests know where the fire extinguishers are located and how to use them! You never know when you might need them.

Did You Know?

Burn Awareness Week is observed the first full week in February. For more information, visit the American Burn Association’s website at http://www.ameriburn.org.

  • 1 February 2016
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 1378
  • Comments: 0
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