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Preventing Kitchen Fires

Taking Your Kitchen Up a Notch (with Apologies to Emeril)

Around the House

Homeowner insurance policies typically cover things like structural damage to a kitchen, including paint and wallpaper replacement, repairing or replacing damaged appliances, and cleaning up smoke and soot damage.

All kitchens are fire hazards. But some present greater risks than others for a variety of reasons, ranging from their age to how well they're maintained to what else they'reused for besides cooking.

If you're in an older home, faulty and/or overloaded wiring can be a concern throughout your home. It's an even greater concern in kitchens, and especially near cooktops and ranges, as plug-in appliances typically congregate in these areas. All it takes is one spark from a frayed electrical wire to kindle an electrical fire. If that spark were to come from a wire near a stovetop…well, we probably don't need to tell you what happens next.

As far as appliances and cords go, keep them away from stovetops. If you have to use them near burners, keep their cords as short as possible. Take up the slack with a Velcro cord keeper, a twist-tie, or a rubber band. Don't let them dangle long and loose about your cooktop. Never overload outlets around your stovetop with these devices. Doing so can over-load a circuit, overheat an outlet, and…you get the idea, right? Other tune-up tips include…

  • Clearing the clutter from cooking areas. For some reason, people tend to load up stovetops with things that do and don't relate to cooking. That cute little plaque your nephew made in wood shop? It's wood, and it will burn. Those adorable potholders you got as a wedding present? They'll burn, too. Find another place to hang the plaque. Stow the potholders in a drawer near the cooktop.

  • Keeping cooking areas clean and free of grease residue. This includes stovetops, range hoods, backsplashes—basically anything that makes up the cooking area. Wipe up splatters as soon as they happen or as soon as it's safe to do so. Plain old vinegar and water works fine on new grease spots. For caked-on grease, scrub with trisodium phosphate (TSP) or very fine sandpaper. And don't forget your cabinets. Grease builds up on them, too.

  • Minimize paper pileup. If kitchens are doing double duty as home offices or crafting spots, paper and other flammables can be a real problem. Keep all paper products away from appliances. Keep newspaper and junk-mail piles to a minimum. Better yet, recycle them as soon as you're done with them.

Finally, keep kids and pets away from cooking areas. Establish a safe zone, and teach your kids about it as soon as they're able to understand.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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