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Kitchen Fires: Watch What You Heat

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). In fact, one out of three home fires begins in the kitchen — more than any other place in the home. Cooking fires also are the leading cause of fire-related injuries in the home.


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Pamela Pucci, RN, a nurse educator in injury prevention and community outreach at the U-M Trauma Burn Center, says that burn injuries from cooking fires and scalds from hot liquids are common among all age groups.

“At U-M, we’ve seen burn injuries from splattered oil, scalds caused by spills from microwaved liquids, and children injured from inadvertently tipping the handle of a pan on a stove, causing it to spill on them,” she says. “Even hot steam from microwave containers can cause a very painful burn injury.”

Preventing the Flames and Burns

Pucci says that following a few simple safety tips could help to eliminate the risk for serious burn injuries while cooking. These tips include:


  • Never leave a stove unattended while cooking food.

  • If you must leave the room, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.

  • When you are simmering, baking or roasting food, check it regularly, stay nearby and use a timer to remind you.

  • If you have young children, use the stove’s back burners whenever possible.

  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the stove and turn pot handles inward.

  • When you cook, wear clothing with tight-fitting sleeves.

  • Keep potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper and plastic bags, towels and anything else that can burn, away from your stovetop.

  • Clean up food and grease from burners and stovetops.

  • Use caution even when cooking with a microwave, as temperatures rise very quickly and scald burns can occur.

  • Use special care when removing food from a microwave that is above eye level and put containers on a stable, flat surface before opening.

For more cooking safety and fire prevention tips, visit .

About the U-M Trauma Burn Center

The U-M Trauma Burn Center is a Level 1 Trauma and Burn Verified Center by the American College of Surgeons and the American Burn Association. The Center is a leader in innovative and effective patient care and has a strong commitment to research, education and injury prevention. Each year, an average of 1,500 patients suffering from traumatic injuries and burns are admitted to the Center.


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HHI is committed to accuracy of content and correcting information that is incomplete or inaccurate. With our broad scope of coverage of healthful indoor environments, and desire to rapidly publish info to benefit the community, mistakes are inevitable. HHI has established an error correction policy to welcome corrections or enhancements to our information. Please help us improve the quality of our content by contacting with corrections or suggestions for improvement. Each contact will receive a respectful reply.

The Healthy House Institute (HHI), a for-profit educational LLC, provides the information on as a free service to the public. The intent is to disseminate accurate, verified and science-based information on creating healthy home environments.


While an effort is made to ensure the quality of the content and credibility of sources listed on this site, HHI provides no warranty - expressed or implied - and assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed on or in conjunction with the site. The views and opinions of the authors or originators expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of HHI: its principals, executives, Board members, advisors or affiliates.

Kitchen Fires: Watch What You Heat:  Created on March 8th, 2007.  Last Modified on January 10th, 2010


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