Grease fires are one of the biggest risks in Finnish kitchens. Flammable grease that burns with force is the cause of the most serious damage in stove fires. The source of this information is a recent study by the Finnish National Rescue Association, which investigated fire damage claims compensated by insurance company LocalTapiola. In many cases, fires are not started by deep frying but by overheating butter in a pan or pot, for example.

Liekit lyövät korkealle paistinpannusta, jota ihminen pitelee.

When a fire breaks out while cooking, the culprit is often grease catching on fire. Even more commonly, grease fires are the cause of extensive fire damage to the kitchen. According to a recent study by SPEK, grease fires are the costliest cause of damage in stove fires. The study looked at fire damage claims compensated by insurance company LocalTapiola between 2017 and 2020.

– Oil, butter or margarine can catch fire surprisingly easily and generate a tremendous amount of heat. A fire that breaks out quickly and forcefully can spread to the surrounding textiles, kitchen cabinets or cooker hood, for example. Flammable grease can also splash and spread around the kitchen. In these situations, fast action to put out and suppress the fire as soon as it breaks out is essential, says Laura Kuurne, Researcher at SPEK.

The study examined fires caused by stoves. In these fires, the damages paid for grease pieces were about 16,000 euros on average. If the fire spreads to other parts of the building, it can, at its worst, cause damage worth more than 100,000 euros. In other common cause of fire involving a stove, the average amount of damages was at most only half that of grease fires.

– Of course, money is nothing compared to personal injuries or the loss of a sense of security, but the study illustrates the risks of grease fires. In addition to the kitchen, grease fires can break outside on the deck when using the grill or smoker. For this reason, it’s a good idea to always have a fire extinguisher on hand when cooking, says Antti Mättänen, Claims Specialist at LocalTapiola Pirkanmaa.

Remember to observe care when frying steaks and baking

According to the study, grease fires are the third most common cause of stove fires. Other causes in the top three were unnecessary materials and clutter on the stovetop and unsupervised cooking. Fires that break out on the stove are the most common cause of fire in the kitchen.

It is easy to think that grease can catch fire especially when deep frying with large amounts of oil. However, experts estimate that the majority of grease fires at home involve smaller amounts of oil and other fats. When making French fries in oil, the risk of fire may be more obvious.

– A grease fire can break out when frying meat or fish with butter in a pan or melting margarine in a pot for a dough, for example. In a typical case, something interrupts the cooking process and distracts the person. Before long, the oil or fat left unattended on the stove overheats and catches fire. The distraction can be anything from the phone or doorbell ringing to a child, says Kuurne.

For unprepared home cooks, a quickly igniting grease fire can be an intimidating sight. It is also not advisable to attempt to put out the fire if it is no longer safe to do so. However, there are many ways to put out a grease fire.

– A fire that has just broken out can be suppressed with a dry pan or pot lid or a fire blanket. It’s a good idea to have both on hand in the kitchen. Especially when preparing deep frying, it’s important to ensure that the lid fits well in the pot so that it can take away oxygen and suffocate the fire. The lid must also be completely dry in order to be used for putting out a fire, says Mättänen.

SPEK’s Researcher Kuurne reminds about the risks of mixing water with burning oil or fat:

– Water should never be used to put out a grease fire, as this can cause burns and risks spreading the fire. Pouring water on burning oil or fat causes the water to turn into steam very quickly, which can make the entire contents of the pot burst with explosion-like force. Even a small drop of water mixed with hot oil or fat can cause burns, says Kuurne.