London Fire Brigade

Elderly couple injured in ‘fireball’ pan blaze

16 April 2012

A couple who are thought to be in their eighties were injured last night when a pan of oil that was left to burn on a hob burst into flames. It is thought that the elderly woman realised the pan was on fire and ran it under the cold tap. As soon as the water hit the hot oil it created a fire ball and the woman received burns to her face and arms. The elderly man is thought to have suffered from smoke inhalation. Both were taken to hospital by ambulance and the woman’s injuries were described as “serious.”

Graham Elder, Station Manager for Beckenham fire station, said: “Leaving pans unattended on the hob can be lethal. If your pan does overheat or catch fire you shouldn’t put water on it because as soon as the water hits the oil it can cause a huge fireball as happened here.

“This was a terrible incident and must have been very frightening for the elderly people involved and I wish them both a quick recovery.”

Two fire engines and ten firefighters from Woodside and Beckenham fire stations attended the incident which was in a flat on Rectory Road in Beckenham, Kent. The Brigade was called at 21.45 on Sunday 15 April and the incident was declared over at 21.55. Part of the kitchen was damaged and there was smoke damage throughout the flat.

Following the fire firefighters spent time fitting smoke alarms inside all of the 32 flats within the complex where the fire occurred. Graham Elder said: “Smoke alarms are vital as they can buy you precious seconds to escape if a fire does break out in your home. Our advice is to fit a smoke alarm on each level of your home and to test it works regularly, you never know, it might even save your life.”

The Brigade’s advice on preventing pan fires is as follows:

Chip pans / hot fat frying

• Never fill a pan more than a third full with fat or oil.
• Dry chips/food before putting them in the pan.
• If the oil has started smoking turn off the heat and leave the oil to cool down, otherwise it may catch fire.
• Turn off the hob if you have to leave the kitchen whilst cooking.

If your pan catches fire:

• Don't move the pan.
• Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on a hot fat fire.
• If it's safe to do so - turn off the heat, but never lean over the pan to reach the controls.
• Leave the kitchen, close the door behind you, tell everyone else in the home to get out and don’t go back inside for any reason.
• Call 999