Pan fires and fire extinguishers

Deep fat fryer fires and pan fires with burning fat are difficult to extinguish. The jet of an ordinary extinguisher can carry the burning fat out of the pan and spread the fire, making the problem worse. Any traditional water based extinguishers can also be dangerous, as water droplets sink into the fat and then erupt violently, spreading the fire. The five most commonly used methods of extinguishing fat fires are:

1) wet chemical extinguishers

2) fire blankets

3) dry water mist extinguishers

4) ABF fire extinguishers

5) Foam Aerosols

Wet chemical extinguishers

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are usually supplied with a long lance which helps to safely deploy the foam. The wet chemical forms a thick soapy foam-like blanket over the surface of the burning oil/fat which stops oxygen from reaching the fire and smothers the flames. This process is known as saponification, which is an endothermic process that not only ensures that the additive penetrates the fat/oil and creates a seal, but also cools it to below the ignition temperature, thus preventing the oil/fat from re-igniting

Fire blankets

Fire blankets are spread over the burning pot or pan and exclude oxygen which suffocates the fire. It is crucial to leave the fire blanket on top of the container even when the flames have gone, as the hot fat would re-ignite again should the blanket be removed.

Dry Water mist extinguishers

Portable dry water mist extinguishers create a microscopic mist with low pressure which settles onto the surface of the fire without sinking in. As the water droplets evaporate above the surface, the fire cools and oxygen is excluded. Dry water mist also protects the user from the flames, as the mist forms a heat barrier.

ABF fire extinguishers

These extinguishers resemble a normal fire extinguisher and contain a foam suitable for burning fat.

Aerosols

Whilst formally not classified as extinguishers, these foams are a low cost solution for domestic kitchens with cooking oil.

Chip pans cause fires, don’t be caught out!

After a good night out with friends in the pub there is nothing nicer than to get back home and finish the evening off with a midnight snack. For many people it is the last snack that they will prepare. Chip pan fires are the cause of many house fire deaths, many of them occurring as a result of the midnight munchies after a night out.

A chip pan that is left unattended can burst into flames. Many people putting the chip pan on after a night out, go and sit down while it is heating up; they fall asleep and without them being aware the chip pan bursts into flames. If a heat or smoke alarm is fitted in or near the kitchen, the occupant will be alerted to the fire and will have the time to evacuate the building and call the fire brigade.

Where there is no smoke or heat alarms fitted the story has a different ending. Unlike the perception that many people have that they will wake from the smell of smoke, the smoke overcomes them and they die of smoke inhalation before the flames reach them. Smoke is toxic and after only a few breaths you can be rendered unconscious, not giving you enough time to escape to safety.

By following two very simple safety steps you will reduced the risk of dying in a house fire.

1) Ensure that you have working smoke alarms fitted in your home.

2) Get a take-away after a night out rather than putting the chip pan on or put something in the microwave.

Here are some real life accounts from fire fighters who have attended fires caused by cooking after a night out where someone has died