Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

Our Mission: Safer Stronger Communities - Safe Effective Firefighters.

Chip Pans & Cooking

Food preparation and cooking are a fundamental activity of life and happen at least once a day in almost every dwelling. Cooking means heat, from a variety of sources and types of equipment, so it is not surprising that it leads to a large number of problems and accidents.

  • 64% of fires reported to Fire & Rescue Services each year take place in, or start in, the kitchen.
  • Of 50,000 accidental fires in dwellings in 2003, cooking activities caused 57%.
  • These fires caused 66 deaths in 2003 - and accounted for 17% of all accidental fire related injuries.
  • Kitchen fires also account for two-thirds of unreported fires.
  • In 1995 an estimates total of 748,000 fires, with 485,000 resulting from cooking activities. The report mentions that 26% of all fires were caused by fat or oil catching fire and 16% by grill pans.
  • It also says that households with several occupants, especially households with children, have more fires - not only because more cooking is done, but because adults are more likely to be distracted when cooking.

The British Crime Survey (BCS) also gives information on fire risks related to socio-economic groups, using the ACORN system, which classifies households by area and representative population. This is not specifically about cooking fires, but it does show that the highest risk groups are multi-ethnic, low-income areas (ACORN group 17) and council estates with the worst hardship (group 16). Figures from the USA, although they use different social classifications, show that cooking-related fires are lower in households with incomes above the national median (average), but that the level of fire risk is not significantly different no matter what the level of education of the head of the household.

Many unreported fires were minor. More than half were said to have caused no real financial loss, and only one in fifty caused damage of £1,000 or more.
The BCS does not report on injuries, but the Department of Trade and Industry's Home Accident Surveillance System (HASS) does. It reports on all types of injuries that result in visits to hospital casualty departments. For 1998, it suggests a figure of around 36,000 thermal injuries (burns and scalds) in kitchens.
As a priority for community fire safety, the potential for information and education to reduce fires, deaths and injuries from accidents in the kitchen, and from cooking in particular, is very high.

The potential impact of prevention work

In April 1998, a pilot of the national chip pan fire safety campaign was run in Merseyside. The TV advert was broadcast on Granada TV and the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service co-ordinated various activities throughout the region.

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