Fighting Fires in the Home

Fire extinguishers are special pressurized devices that release chemicals or water to put out a fire. They keep small fires from spreading, assist in fighting fires until the fire department arrives and can help provide an escape route for you and your family.

Remember: A fire extinguisher is no substitute for the fire department! Always call the fire department first -- no matter how small you think the fire is.

How do fire extinguishers work? Fire is a result of a chemical reaction called combustion. Fire needs fuel, oxygen and heat in order to burn. Fire extinguishers apply an "agent" that will cool burning fuel or restrict or remove oxygen so the fire cannot continue to burn. Small household fires can be quickly controlled by a fire extinguisher.

Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher, but simply owning an extinguisher is not enough.

One-third of all people injured by fire are hurt while trying to control or extinguish the fire. You need the right type of extinguisher and you must know how to use it. 

Don't fight a fire unless:

  • You call the fire department first. An extinguisher is no substitute for the fire department.
  • The fire is small and not spreading. A fire can double in size every two or three minutes.
  • You can get out fast if you can't control the fire. Don't get trapped. Make sure the fire is not between you and your exit.
  • You have the right extinguisher for what's burning. Read the label! Know what type of extinguisher you have before there is a fire.
  • Your extinguisher works. Inspect extinguishers once a month for signs of damage, corrosion, tampering and leaks. A partially discharged extinguisher is an empty extinguisher.
  • You know how to use your extinguisher. It's too late to read the instructions when the fire is burning.
  • Attend an extinguisher training class if you can.

Home Fire Safety Tips

  • Make it a habit to unplug all counter appliances when not in use.
  • Store cigarette lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
  • Practice home fire drills regularly. Make them realistic. Pretend that some escape routes are blocked by smoke or fire and practice using alternate exits.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector. They are especially useful in the newer energy-efficient homes with tight weather seals.
  • Don't use an outdoor grill or charcoal grill indoors. (Don't laugh, it happens!
  • Test your smoke detector monthly to make sure it's operable.
  • If your smoke detector is battery-operated or has a batter backup system, change the batteries twice a year.


Find out more about Warren County Fire & Rescue Department's Smoke Alarm Program. 

Do you live in a Manufacture Home?  Read Living Safely in a Manufactured Home.

What's Cooking?

Your kitchen pots and pans may seem harmless, but if used incorrectly when cooking, a fire can result.

Fact:  According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. On average, there are 99,300 cooking fires each year resulting in 290 deaths, 4,940 injuries and $400 million in property damage. In addition, 42% of the people who have died in cooking fires were asleep.

As with all types of fires, most kitchen and cooking fires can be avoided by following these easy safety tips from NFPA:

  • Never leave an item cooking on your stove or in your oven unattended.
  • Promptly turn off all appliances after you’re finished using them, and unplug electrical appliances when they’re not in use. Don’t overload electrical circuits.
  • Keep appliances clean, wiping appliance surfaces after spills. Clean stove surfaces and ovens regularly.
  • Wear tight-fitting sleeves, or roll them up securely when cooking.
  • Keep flammable objects, including pot holders, dish towels and curtains, at least three feet (one meter) from the stove.
  • To prevent a child from bumping into or grabbing a pot handle, turn handles inward toward the back of the stove.



The following information describes the types of fires you might expect in the kitchen...and what to do about them.

Dry Cooking Fires

The most common type of cooking fire is the dry cooking fire. The water or moisture boils out of the pan and the food left in the pan scorches, producing smoke. This usually doesn't cause a great deal of damage. The heat may sometimes damage the surrounding area. The smoke may leave a residue and an odor. Hopefully a little cleaning up is all it takes.

Grease Fires             

The grease fire occurs when oil or grease type foods are heated and ignite. A grease fire can do significant damage. Open flames can extend to surrounding cabinets or other combustible items. If unnoticed, a grease fire can extend to a major house fire, engulfing the entire kitchen, adjacent rooms or even the attic. This becomes a dangerous life-threatening fire.

Be prepared for grease pan fires by always keeping a lid and oven mitt nearby. If a pan of food catches fire, put on the oven mitt and carefully slide a lid over the pan. Turn off the burner, don’t move the pan and keep the lid on until the pan cools completely.

Never, never put water on a grease fire! Water will splatter the grease and dramatically increase the size of the fire. You will easily get burned! NEVER try to carry a flaming grease fire outside. It will quickly be too hot to carry and you will certainly spread the fire over the entire area.

Oven Fires

Most of the time an oven fire is not serious.  The fire is usually contained in the oven, which is designed for high heat anyway.  The oven fire usually suffocates or is easily extinguished.

If a fire starts in your oven, close the oven door and turn off the heat source.  If the flames don’t go out immediately, call the fire department.


What to do if there is a kitchen fire.

In all cases, make sure everyone evacuates the house.
Call 911 and report the fire.
If the fire is still very small, you can use a fire extinguisher to try and put it out. But if the fire gets out of control, get out of the house and wait for the fire department to arrive.



Courtesy Home Fire Inspections

We can come to your home and provide a courtesy home inspection identifying any hazards, checking your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and making suggestions to better improve your home for fire safety.  Anyone interested in receiving a free courtesy home fire inspection may contact the fire administration office at (540) 636-3830 or e-mail us at


To learn more, read about Fireplaces & Wood Burning StovesMulch Fires and Outside Burning Regulations

 Warren County Fire & Rescue Services

200 Skyline Vista Drive, Suite 200

Front Royal, VA  22630


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