Cooking up trouble

Cooking up trouble

This week I read with interest the news story of the Fretwell family from Portland in Dorset whose electric cooker “exploded” without warning and caught fire. Undaunted the man of the house reached for a dry powder fire extinguisher, that apparently he had close to hand in his Kitchen, and quickly extinguished the flames. He did not call 999 to summon the Portland and Weymouth Fire and Rescue Service being content to have managed the emergency himself.

Despite the quick thinking of the householder and the successful outcome the local Fire Chief Phil Head when asked to comment, rather rashly I fear, went on record advising that fire extinguishers should not be used other than by suitably trained individuals familiar with the types and uses of extinguishers. He didn’t help his cause by adding that his best advice in any fire incident would be to get out, stay out and call the fire brigade. That is easy to say District Commander Head when it’s not your house burning to the ground. If the tools are to hand why not use them.

In one respect however he has a valid point. If you are going to use a fire extinguisher take time to read the simple user instructions  printed on each and every canister and get the rest of the family (those that can read obviously) to do likewise. Mr Fretwell was somewhat fortunate in having a dry powder fire extinguisher to hand as they do work on electrical fires even if they leave a merry mess. However in a kitchen the best cost effective extinguisher to arm yourself with is an ABF Foam. The overwhelming majority of kitchen fires are pan fires – more specifically chip pan fires. An ABF Foam extinguisher is designed with burning Chip Fat in mind which is why there’s the F in ABF – and is also effective on most burning solids and flammable liquids like petrol and solvents aka the commonest types of home fires. Dry powder by comparison is not effective on cooking fat fires.

Before the purists raise a cry I should mention that Wet Chemical Fire extinguishers are a specific type developed for cooking fats and are used widely in commercial catering and food preparation facilities.

After the fire Mr Fretwell told reporters he was at a loss to explain the catastrophic failure of his 25 year old cooker. I suggest a clue may lie somewhere in the words “25 years old” but who can say. Well done anyway.


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