How Should I Respond to a Grease Fire?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A grease fire can rapidly rage out of control if not correctly addressed. While the best way to handle a grease fire is to avoid it, sometimes circumstances in the kitchen get out of control, and it is important to know how to manage a grease fire if one should arise. The most important thing to remember is that it is important to stay calm and assess the situation: if the fire is getting too large or out of control, evacuate the house immediately with family members and pets, and call the fire department for assistance using their emergency phone number.

Baking soda can smother a grease fire.
Baking soda can smother a grease fire.

Most grease fires start due to lack of attentiveness. Keep an eye on the kitchen while you cook, and make sure to keep your work surfaces clean: wipe spills off the stove, do not leave dirty dishes sitting around, and keep your space tidy so that there is less detritus for a fire to feed on. In addition, make sure that you dress sensibly while cooking: wear clothing that is form fitting, rather than loose, and keep long hair pulled back. Keep the vents for hot appliances clear, and check them regularly to make sure that they are not clogged.

Grease fires can be put out using a Class B fire extinguisher.
Grease fires can be put out using a Class B fire extinguisher.

If a grease fire starts, your response should vary depending on how large it is and where it is. If the fire is small and in a pan, gently slide a lid over the fire to suffocate it, lifting the lid after 20 minutes to confirm that the fire is out. If grease on the stove or in the oven catches fire, extinguish it using a class B fire extinguisher, if you can. Baking soda can also be used to smother a grease fire, but do not under any circumstances use water, which can cause the fire to spread or splatter you with burning grease. If your clothing or hair catches fire, stop, drop, and roll to put the flames out, preferably on a tile floor that is less likely to catch fire than carpeting.

The fire department should be called during a grease fire.
The fire department should be called during a grease fire.

If the grease fire was small enough for you to manage yourself, check the area carefully to make sure that the fire is completely out. Remember that fires can spread inside walls, so if the wall is scorched or feels hot, leave the house and call the fire department to have them make a safety check. Be cautious about touching the area of the grease fire, as melted appliances and other things damaged in the fire could still be extremely hot. Clean up carefully after the fire, discarding damaged materials, and air the room out for several days to get rid of the smell of smoke.

A water-based extinguisher should never be used for a grease fire, as it can cause the burning grease to splatter.
A water-based extinguisher should never be used for a grease fire, as it can cause the burning grease to splatter.

If the grease fire was large enough to merit a visit from the fire department, wait for them to tell you that entering the home again is safe. They may inspect the home and find signs that the structural integrity has been compromised, and that this needs to be addressed before you can go inside again. The fire department may also have safety suggestions for you about kitchen layout and fire safety: follow them so that you can avoid the recurrence of a grease fire.

Class B fire extinguishers can be used to put out grease or oil fires.
Class B fire extinguishers can be used to put out grease or oil fires.
Avoid leaving dirty dishes lying around to reduce the likelihood that a grease fire will spread.
Avoid leaving dirty dishes lying around to reduce the likelihood that a grease fire will spread.
Ambulances might need to be dispatched depending on the severity of the fire.
Ambulances might need to be dispatched depending on the severity of the fire.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon248850

My girlfriend's grandmother started one in the stove and had no idea what to do. I calmly walked to the shelf and poured a handful of baking soda or powder (pretty much the same thing except when cooking) and tossed it onto the fire. Most fire extinguishers use sodium bicarbonate to kill the fire. Guess what baking soda is?

anon26659

For an added layer of fire protection, also check out the StoveTop FireStop. StoveTop FireStop is an automatic fire extinguisher specifically for your cooktop. It's about the size of a tuna can and magnetizes underneath the venthood. It automatically puts out grease fires so you don't even have to pick up a fire extinguisher.

anon4056

how do you clean up the stove after a grease fire? What do you use to clean it with. and how thoroughly should you clean it? mine was a small fire that i could blow out with no damage.

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