Cooking Fire Safety for Older Adults

While cooking fires happen to all people of all ages, older adults have a higher risk of injury from these and other common home fires. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fire Administration.

In the U.S., cooking fires remain the most common type of home fires. Across the country, fire departments respond to over 100,000 cooking-related fires every year with countless more cooking fires unreported. The majority of cooking fires begin from food left unattended on the stove. While cooking fires happen to all people of all ages, older adults have a higher risk of injury from these and other common home fires.

Fortunately, there are some easy steps people can take to remain safe from cooking-related fires at home. Whether living independently or in a care facility, here are some basic actions you can take to make your home safer.

When cooking:

  • Always stay in the kitchen when cooking with oil or grease. A serious fire can start in seconds.
  • Always use a loud timer when cooking.
  • Wear short or close-fitting sleeves and an apron to avoid catching clothes on fire.
  • In case of a pot or pan fire, cover it with a lid. Turn off the stove and let it cool off before moving it. Don't use flour or water to extinguish the fire.
  • Clean the stove and toaster regularly to avoid grease and crumb buildup.

If a pan fire has spread beyond the pan, get out of the home, close the door as you leave, and call 9-1-1.

Following these basic tips will help keep you safer from a fire at home. For questions or more information, contact the Seattle Fire Department's Public Education office (206-386-1337 or fireinfo@seattle.gov) or your local fire district.

Contributor William Mace works in education and outreach with the Seattle Fire Department, which offers numerous resources for older adults on their Fire Safety for Older Adults webpage.

Several local fire departments offer free smoke alarms for older homeowners in their communities. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fire Administration.

Free Smoke Alarms for Senior Homeowners in Seattle

The Seattle Fire Department will install free smoke alarms in your home if you are a senior citizen, own your home, and live inside the city of Seattle. If your smoke alarm is more than 10 years old, you may need to replace it.

The Seattle Fire Department recommends the following:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and in each bedroom.
  • Replace your smoke alarm every 10 years.
  • Change the battery in your smoke alarm if it "chirps," warning that the battery is low.
  • Test and clean your smoke alarms each month.
  • Prepare and practice an escape plan in case your smoke alarm detects a fire.

To request your smoke alarms or more information, contact the Seattle Fire Department's Public Education office (206-386-1337 or fireinfo@seattle.gov). If you live outside of the city of Seattle, contact your local fire department to see if they have a smoke alarm program.