What to do if your stove catches on fire

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - There used to be four kids playing on the front porch of an east Louisville home. Now, you'll find just a pile of their charred belongings. The Moore family had to move out after a kitchen fire spread rapidly through their home earlier this month on Aiken Road.

"The first time I walked in here I cried," said Crystal Lotz, cousin of the Moore family. "I mean it's horrible, it's devastating. It's just something so simple. Something we could all be a victim of."

What happened at the Moore home happens often. The husband came home from work at 3 a.m. and his wife started heating oil on the stove so he could fry some food, but both fell asleep.

WAVE 3 went to a demonstration and saw firsthand at an Okolona Fire Department how dangerous stovetop fires can be. They double in size every 15 to 20 seconds.

The Moore family had no time to spare to get out of their home. "A few more minutes and there's no telling. There's no telling cause the kids rooms are all on that end of the house so all of the kids had to come through it one way or another to get out," said Lotz.

"I get emotional just thinking about it. It's terrible. It's just terrible. I mean here's their Easter Eggs. I mean I love these babies. It's so hard," continued Lotz.

"Unattended cooking. You get the pot on the stove. You turn it on. You got grease frying for chicken wings, french fries. You go to the store because you forgot the fries. You go to sleep on the couch after a late night," said Mike Allendorf, Okolona Fire Marshal.

There's a simple device that can prevent virtually all of these fires. It's simple and not too expensive, but you may have never heard of it. It's called a Firestop.

"On the top is a magnet and all it does is you got your metal hood and just put it up into your hood and it connects into place and it dangles over your burner," explained Allendorf.

When a grease fire flares up, a fire dousing burst of powder comes down, snuffing out the fire.

If there's a fire like this in your home do you know what to do? Many people try pouring water on grease fires which cause the flames to become more intense. When they put water on it, water expands 1,700 times into a stream of steamy fire.

"We like to make homemade popcorn," said WAVE 3 Anchor Scott Reynolds. "If the oil started on fire I asked my boys what they would do and they said 'put water on it'. Which means I've got some instruction I need to do at home."

Many people make mistake number two. "Don't take that pot. Do not throw it into the sink because you hit the stainless steel with that grease and its going to back splash on you," Allendorf explained.

That often causes severe burns and sometimes death when clothing catches on fire. Which can also happen if you make mistake number three - reaching through a fire to shut off the knob on the back panel of an electric range.

What you should do is use a cookie sheet or a lid "and just slide it over top of it and let it smother itself out," a firefighter told us during a demonstration. You can also use a kitchen fire extinguisher or something similar.

Most of us have heard of using baking soda to put out a fire, but if you don't have that you can use white flour, cake mix, any dry powder in your kitchen.

If in doubt, the best option of all is to get out of your house. "Truthfully we want you to flee. That's why insurance is there to replace your stove, to replace your home, to replace your belongings. You know, you just cannot replace that life," said Allendorf.

You might think it will never happen to me, but there are more than 120,000 kitchen fires every year in the United States. Some 400 people die and thousands of others are injured.

Louisville Fire and Safety is one of the main distributors of the Firestop devices. You can order your device by clicking here. Type WAVE 3 in the coupon code to save 10%.

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