It may sound slightly counterintuitive, but grease fires can be even more dangerous than a regular fire. Why? First, the traditional methods used to extinguish them can be counterproductive. Second, because grease is a liquid, it means that fire can spread much more easily. The best way to avoid grease fires is never to have to deal with them. This article will look at how to prevent grease fires and how to put them out. Read on to find out more.
What is a Grease Fire?
If you’ve ever heard about the fire triangle, you’ll already know that fire needs three things to flourish:
When it comes to grease fires, the third point on that list is particularly relevant. A grease fire is any fire that uses a form of oil for its fuel. This ‘oil’ can take many forms. It could be motor oil or machinery grease, the most common type is caused by cooking oil.
And it is a serious threat.
Why are Grease Fires so Dangerous?
All fires are inherently dangerous.
However, grease fires even more so, as the usual means used to extinguish them can cause further danger.
Ever heard the saying ‘oil and water don’t mix’. It’s actually true and even more relevant when considering grease fires. Here’s why.
The causes of grease fires are usually a result of the grease becoming too hot. This is particularly true in the sense of cooking equipment, such as pans and fryers. Often people’s first instinct on seeing a fire is to cover it with water.
This would be a very bad idea.
When hot grease is exposed to water, it plumes and spits. Often this can create a fireball and spew hot grease elsewhere, spreading the fire.
To deal with a grease fire takes a little specialized knowledge of how to deal with fires. Let’s look at how this is achieved.
How to Prevent Grease Fires?
The first and safest step is to prevent a grease fire from happening in the first place. Fortunately, with some common sense and care, it isn’t difficult. Here is some great guidance to preventing grease fires:
- Never leave hot pans or containers unattended. There is a fine line between a pan being smoking hot and it reaching its ‘flashpoint’ and bursting into flames. Various cooking oils have different points at which they will ignite too!
- Know the signs of an imminent grease fire. Oil or grease will rarely ignite without a few warning signs. A pan that is spitting could indicate that the oil inside is very hot.
- Another way to tell when oil is getting too hot is to look for smoke. When oil reaches too high a temperature, it produces a perceptible amount of blue-colored smoke.
- Be aware of hidden grease. This is particularly true of kitchen equipment like broilers and ovens. When the grease heats, it becomes very viscous, meaning it can flow and pool in hidden areas. The most effective way to guard against large quantities of grease accumulating is to regularly clean cooking equipment and check for greasy deposits that might heat and ignite.
- Ensure you have a fire or smoke alarm fitted. As we stated above, the first sign of a grease fire is smoke. An alarm will provide you with enough time to possibly prevent a fire.
How to Put Out Grease Fires?
As we said above, there is a different technique to combating grease fires. Looking at the fire triangle above, it will be a little challenging to remove the fuel from the fire. And we can’t reduce the heat by using water. So what’s the answer?
Here is how to put out a grease fire:
- Deprive the fire of oxygen. This is a really effective way to suppress a grease fire. This can be achieved in several ways. A baking sheet, a pan lid, or another larger pan will all act to deprive a grease fire of the oxygen it needs to survive. A damp dishcloth can also be used, provided it is wrung through first.
- Use a fire blanket. Fire blankets work in the same way as our other suggestions. They offer a degree of protection to your arms and hands too. If you haven’t used or seen a fire blanket before, a professional fire protection company can offer great advice.
- Use a fire extinguisher. If you have a class B dry chemical extinguisher, this will work effectively to smother the flames. Be advised that standing too close, especially with a big extinguisher, can often cause hot oil to be sprayed further and should only be used if the other methods have failed.
- Turn off the heat. If the fire is under control, the next step is to turn off the heat. By doing so, you begin to remove an additional element of the fire triangle. This will also prevent the situation from getting any worse.
Here are a few more pointers concerning grease fires:
- Don’t attempt to move the pan or tray. Hot grease is very mobile and can easily spill. It also soaks through gloves. You risk burning yourself and spreading the fire.
- Never use water! As we said, water will cause an explosive effect when combined with burning grease.
- If in doubt, get out! While admirable, fire can spread quickly. If the fire cannot be controlled quickly, ensure you and your family safely vacate the area without delay.
- Call 911. Trained firefighters will be the best option if a fire has become uncontrollable. The sooner you call them, the less extensive the damage.
Grease fires require greater knowledge to deal with. With the above guide, you increase your chances of successfully controlling a grease fire. However, there is no substitute for professional advice, equipment, and guidance. Fraker Fire can offer extensive knowledge in fire protection.