NFPA report identifies cooking as leading cause of home fires

Published on March 18, 2008
Attention to safety can prevent nearly all cooking fires

March 18, 2008  – Cooking was involved in an estimated 146,400 home structure fires in the United Statesin 2005, according to a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report released today. Cooking fires accounted for 40 percent of the home structure fires in 2005, and these cooking fires resulted in 480 deaths, 4,690 injuries, and $876 million in direct property damage.

According to Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment report, cooking equipment left unattended was a factor in ignition in 38 percent of home structure fires for 2002-2005. Unattended cooking was the leading contributing factor in home cooking fires, followed by combustibles too close to a heat source, and equipment being unintentionally turned on or not turned off.

Cooking was also the leading cause of home fire injuries, accounting for 36 percent of home structure fire injuries in 2005. These injuries were especially likely to occur during attempts to fight the fire. In home structure fires involving cooking equipment for 2002-2005, 59 percent of injuries occurred while fighting the fire, compared to 35 percent of injuries in all other types of home structure fires.

“Cooking results in more home fires and fire injuries in the United Stateseach year than anything else and nearly all of these fires can be prevented with a little extra care,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of communications. “Simply paying attention when you are cooking will keep your dinner and everything else from getting burned.”

Home cooking fires peak between 5 and 7 p.m. Extra cooking, as on major U.S.holidays, often means extra home cooking fires. Typically, more cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year.

NFPA offers the following safety tips.

  • Stay in the kitchen when 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’re cooking.
  • To prevent cooking fires, you have to be alert. You won’t be if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, boxes, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from your stovetop.
  • Keep the stovetop, burners and oven clean.
  • Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.
  • Wear short, close fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and can catch fire if it comes in contact with a gas flame or electric burner.

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NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1-617-984-7275