By Jim Twamley
When I was a kid I was frying something in oil and the pan caught fire. I didn’t know what to do. My mom got a hot pad, grabbed the pan, and put it in the sink under running water. This caused the flames to erupt into a fireball and ignite the curtains. My dad came over with a towel and beat out the flames.
Throwing water on an oil fire causes a fireball because the water sinks to the bottom of the pan, becomes instantly superheated and erupts, spewing the flaming oil out of the pan.
One way to deal with this kind of fire is to follow these three steps:
1. Turn off the burner (but don’t move the pan).
2. Moisten a hand towel with water and ring it out so it is damp.
3. Smother the fire by covering it with the damp hand towel and let it sit until cool.
In order for fire to exist the three sides of the fire triangle must be present: fuel, heat and oxygen. The above procedure extinguishes the fire by robbing it of oxygen.
You should also keep your fire extinguisher charged and handy. My son, who graduated from Fire Academy, reminded me that another good way to extinguish a pan fire is to place a lid over it. Fire produces toxic fumes that rob a room of oxygen and can quickly asphyxiate a person. So, if you can’t immediately control the fire get everyone out of your RV (including yourself), call the fire department and warn your RV neighbors to evacuate their rigs. Once an RV starts burning, it goes fast!
photo: state farm on flickr.com