I’ll never, ever forget the night I had a gas leak in my oven.
Shortly after I turned on my broiler and was happily preparing dinner, I smelled gas. Not sure why this was, I opened my oven door, kneeling down to look at the broiler plate and pilot light. Nothing was lit. So, I shut the door — thinking perhaps, the gas would ignite — and went about my business, getting produce from the refrigerator and gathering other ingredients.
Fortunately, I was with a friend who had more insight than I. Appearing suddenly behind me, he grabbed hold of the oven door. He quickly stepped to the side while pulling open the door, and BOOM! A huge, neon-blue fireball exploded from the oven.
I stood paralyzed and in shock, knowing if I had waited just a minute more to check my broiler, I would have been engulfed by flames. To this day, I get chills thinking about it.
According to the latest statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires in America. Two-thirds (66%) of home cooking fires start with the ignition of food or other cooking materials, and unattended cooking is the leading cause of these fires.
To reduce the risk of kitchen fires, follow these key steps:
- Stay in the kitchen while you’re cooking.
- Don’t leave the stove unattended.Check food regularly to ensure everything is cooking properly.
- If you smell gas, turn off the oven and burners immediately. Call your gas provider.
- Use a kitchen timer to lessen distraction from phone calls, children, visitors and pets.
- Keep your stovetop, oven, microwave and toaster regularly maintained, and keep them clean; grease is highly flammable.
- Keep dish towels and potholders away from open flames or hot surfaces. The same applies to your clothing; bathrobes are meant for the bath, not the kitchen.
- Check your smoke detectors once a month.
If a kitchen fire does occur, it can double in size every 60 seconds, so get everyone out of the house and call 911 immediately. (You should also put the local fire department’s phone number in your cell phone.) I also keep a fire extinguisher in my kitchen. Not all are created equal (some are rated for paper, electrical fires, flammable liquids, etc.), so call your local fire department for suggestions regarding what to buy, or visit the NFPA website for advice.