Don't put fire safety on the back burner: Leading cause of kitchen fires in unattended cooking

York Region

Cooking safety starts with you, writes Vaughan Fire and Rescue Service Chief Andrew Zvanitajs.


The leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking.

With busy lives and homes sometimes doubling as an office or gathering place for family and friends, there can be many distractions. But don’t put fire safety on the back burner.

The No. 1 rule for cooking safety is to stay in the kitchen when cooking. If you must step away, even for a moment, turn off the stove.

Safety tips when cooking

• Keep children and pets away from stovetops. Create a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet (one metre) around the stove and areas where hot food or drinks are prepared or carried.

• Use a timer and regularly check on what you’re cooking.

• Roll up long sleeves and remove scarves or other dangling accessories, as loose-fitting clothing can easily catch fire. “Stop, drop and roll” if clothes catch fire.

• Keep flammable items — like oven mitts, cooking utensils, dishcloths, paper towels and pot holders — a safe distance from the stove.

Have a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

• Remove all items from the stovetop when you’re done cooking.

• Use a heat-resistant surface to cool down hot cookware.

What to do if one starts

Most cooking fires in the home involve the stove. So, now that you know how to help prevent a fire while cooking, let’s talk about what to do if one starts.

In the event of an oil or grease fire, don’t use water to try to put it out. Water will make the fire spread. Instead, smother the flames by completely covering the pot or pan with a large metal lid, cooking sheet or flat tray.

Turn off the stove and don’t pick up the pot or pan as flames could spread and you could get burned.

If a fire starts in your oven, microwave or toaster oven, turn it off and leave the door shut until the fire is out and the appliance is cold.

If you cannot put out the flames by smothering them or using a fire extinguisher, everyone in the home needs to leave immediately. Once outside, call 911 and wait there for firefighters to arrive.

Make sure you install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on all levels of your home, and test them at least once a month. This is the law in Ontario and you could face a fine if you are not in compliance.

Working alarms save lives. It not only alerts you to an emergency, but it can also give you precious seconds to escape.

Pay attention and be safe while cooking.

To learn more about fire prevention and how to help keep your family safe, visit


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