Keep Clear When Fire is Near

The NFPA‘s third Fire Prevention Week tip is to “Keep Cooking Areas Clear.”  By removing potential hazards around heated areas of the kitchen, you minimize the risk of a rogue spark spreading to other parts of the house.  You also protect yourself from being the fire’s next victim!

These are the things the NFPA recommends you keep clear of your cooking areas, especially when they are in use:

  • all flammable materials, including curtains, wooden spoons, dish towels, food wrappers, paper plates, etc.
  • loose clothing (even long hair!)
  • your kids and pets!
  • uncleaned food or grease from previous meals

If it seems difficult to keep the area clear, here are a few suggestions that may help:

  • To keep flammable materials away:
    • Situate nice containers on your counter that are at least five feet away from the stovetop to hold wooden spoons and utensils.
    • Consider valances instead of curtains, or something even more creative like a garland or hanging plant: as long as they remain several feet away from the heat source.  If you must use longer materials near a heat source, add decorative ties or curtain rests to keep the curtains pulled back and away from the heat source when it is in use.
    • Hang dish towels on a cabinet handle instead of the stove handle, or add a towel ring near the sink instead of the oven.
    • Stash oven mitts and potholders in a drawer or cabinet instead of on the counter.
    • Clean as you go!  As soon as you remove packaging, throw it away!
    • Tight on counter space?  Peg board is a popular choice to mount on a wall in (or near) your kitchen.  You can add plenty of hooks and accessories to hold the things you would typically display on the counter.  Even mason jars can be added to hold those spoons, or decorative hooks for oven mitts and towels.
  • To keep clothing and hair away:
    • Keep an apron or chef coat in your kitchen to wear when you are cooking.  This will help hold back any flowy material.
    • Have a canister or drawer with safety pins and hair ties in the kitchen.  This way, any loose sleeves or hair can be pinned back quickly without requiring an entire outfit change.
  • To help kids and pets maintain their distance:
    • Install a baby gate or purchase a portable gate to put up in front of the entrance to the kitchen while you are cooking OR
    • Place a play pen or gated enclosure near the kitchen where you can see it for your baby or pet to play safely within sight
    • For older children, use washi tape or painter’s tape to mark a line that children are not to cross.  Place this line three feet away from the stovetop and oven.
    • Set up older children with an activity at the kitchen table if they want to be close while you cook.  This way that have something to keep them busy nearby without being too close to the hot appliances.
  • To be sure the area is clean:
    • Get in the habit of cleaning the stovetop every night before going to bed.  Keep easy to use products, like spray bottles and microfiber clothes, under the sink so cleaning is a quick and easy process.
    • When you initially start heating up the burners, stay nearby and monitor.  If they start to smoke or smell burnt, turn of the heat and allow it to cool, then do a deeper clean of the burner in question.
    • Utilize the self cleaning feature on your oven if possible!  If not, deep clean it yourself periodically.  This article from Merry Maids has helpful information about using the self clean feature safely.
    • Wipe out that microwave!  Invest in a few reusable covers that will catch splatters and can go in the dishwasher.  While you’re already cleaning the stovetop in the evening, open the microwave and wipe it down too.

We hope all the action items and ideas above help make it easy to keep cooking areas clear!  We will cover the last Cooking Safety tip tomorrow, so stay tuned!