On January 18, 2012 at just after midnight, Portland firefighters from Station 11 (Lents) were dispatched to a reported fire in SE Portland off 87th Avenue. While en-route to the scene, Engine 19’s Fire Lieutenant Tim and Firefighters Chris, Dion, and Steven were notified by a 9-1-1 dispatcher that an occupant had been burnt during an attempt to put out a grease fire.
Firefighters arrived and found two patients. The first, a young woman, was standing outside of the building coughing due to smoke inhalation. The second was a young man who was still inside the building running cold water on his arm.
As firefighters treated both patients, the young man explained that he was in his apartment and had decided to cook onion rings. He began to heat oil in a pot on the range top, walking away to allow time for the oil to heat. When he returned, the pot was on fire and the flames had expanded to the hood. The young man panicked, and tried to extinguish the fire with rags and then a lid, both to no avail. Desperate, he picked up the pot and attempted to carry it outside. Unfortunately, the hot grease splashed onto his face and right arm and he threw the pot full of burning oil towards the back sliding door.
Both the young woman and man were treated by Portland firefighters and ambulance personnel, and then transported to Emanuel Hospital. The young man received second-degree burns and was admitted to Emanuel’s Burn Center.
Portland Fire & Rescue Public Education Officer Scott Goetchius reminds citizens that grease fires are extremely dangerous because the fuel source is a liquid and easily splashed. “Grease fire burn very hot and can quickly spread to cabinets or other flammable areas of the kitchen,” he notes. “When a grease fire occurs, you may only have a few moments to either put out a grease fire or escape your home.”
- DO NOT USE WATER ON A GREASE FIRE! Start evacuating everyone from the building. Fires spread extremely fast and can overwhelm victims in minutes. Treat burns only after evacuating the building.
- Call 9-1-1.
- The easiest way to smother a grease fire is to cover it with a pan lid. Be careful with glass lids; they can break from the extreme heat of open flame.
- Grease fires can also be smothered with baking soda, but it takes a lot of baking soda to do the trick. Unless the baking soda is easily accessible, it's usually easier to quickly find a lid.
- A dry chemical fire extinguisher will also work, but it will contaminate your kitchen and food.
- DO NOT PUT WATER ON A GREASE FIRE! This can not be stressed enough. Pouring water on burning grease or oil will not extinguish the fire. It will only cause the burning oil to splash, spreading the grease fire around.
- DO NOT TRY TO CARRY THE FIRE OUTSIDE! Trying to carry a pot or pan full of burning oil will just slosh and splash the grease fire.
- Treat burns only after the fire is contained or the building is completely evacuated.
- If clothes are caught on fire; STOP, DROP, and ROLL to extinguish them.
Portland Fire & Rescue