Watch What You Heat: The Do's & Don'ts of Grease Fires
Michael De Lazzari
Collingwood School
Floor Location : J 058 P

The potential for a grease fire in the kitchen is a daily reality for those that cook. In North America alone, over 17 million homes will have a kitchen cooking fire every year resulting in over $900 million dollars of property damages and far worse, over 480 deaths. rnrnThe purpose of my experiment is to find out which other readily available household items can safely and effectively put out a grease fire if a more commonly known method for putting out a grease fire is not available: covering the burning pan with its lid, cookie sheet or a damp towel or smothering the flames with baking soda or a Class C fire extinguisher. I hypothesized that if the components of fire are oxygen, heat and fuel, then the removal of one of these components will extinguish the flames. In a grease fire, the removal of oxygen will quickly extinguish the flames since the heat and fuel (grease) cannot be instantaneously removed. Therefore, if readily available household materials are added to a grease fire and they remove the oxygen, then that material will be effective in extinguishing a grease fire. If these materials add oxygen, heat or fuel, then the grease fire will continue to burn or spread. The known methods to extinguish grease fires as recommended by the Fire Department were able to cut off the oxygen and therefore extinguish the flames. Although they are independent variables I considered them to be more like controls because they are already known and proven methods to safely extinguish a grease fire. Just leaving the grease fire alone and allowing it to continue burning is truly the control, but it is not a safe thing to do because it seams to burn stronger, the longer it is left alone, even when done outside, such as for this experiment. Allowing the grease fire to burn unattended inside the home, would have disastrous results. As the grease fire increases in intensity, other combustible materials surrounding the stove can easily and readily catch on fire. rnrnThe dependant variables that I tested was the response of adding rice, salt, milk, flour, sugar and water onto the burning grease fire. In order to recommend that a particular household item can and should be used, I recorded whether the flame was extinguished or not, how long it took the flame to extinguish and whether the material used smothered the flames or spread them. Safety was a very important factor in this experiment. The entire test area was non-combustible concrete and I had a local Firefighter from the Burnaby Fire Department assist me. rnrnI think this experiment is valid and practical for everyday life. Most people panic in a fire situation. As a result of this experiment, I became better aware of safer cooking practices and the information gained has the potential to save lives and property.rn