Growing up, my family stressed the importance of fire safety. We talked about how to prevent forest fires, what the fire escape plan was for our two-story house, and why it was important to have working smoke detectors throughout our home. With all my knowledge and basic common sense, I started to believe that I would never experience a fire in my home. Until of course, I accidentally started a fire in a microwave.
Now I know what you’re thinking…
“What could you have possibly put in the microwave to cause it to catch on fire!?!”
And to that I say, popcorn.
Yes, I remembered to take the plastic packaging off. And yes, I was standing right in front of the microwave when the popcorn was popping at the lowest time outlined on the box. Despite all of that, the microwavable bag still caught on fire.
Luckily, I was right there when I noticed a flame. As I grabbed the fire extinguisher next to the microwave in my apartment complex’s common area, I opened the door and all that was left was smoke. For a second, I thought that I could easily waft the smoke away and it would be like nothing ever happened, but the smoke detectors on the floor were so sensitive that it caused the building’s fire alarm to go off.
Mortified, I grabbed my belonging and evacuated the building. I was able to find my apartment complex manager shortly after walking down the stairs and let him know about the situation. He was relieved to know the cause of the fire, and immediately said it wasn’t my fault. The microwave in the common area needed to be updated, and the fire probably occurred because of the faulty oven.
Although it was terrible to set off an alarm throughout my building and disturb residents, I’m glad no serious damage occurred (minus the microwave that was later disposed of). Even though I was safe and aware of my surroundings in the moment, a fire still occurred. I’m now even more aware of what is going on when I’m cooking, and I refuse to walk away when something is in the microwave.
Even if smoke detectors are installed in a home and the batteries are checked every six months, it’s always good to get a refresh on fire safety basics so the knowledge stays fresh. Here are a few ways to be safer in the kitchen when using a microwave.
Tips for Preventing a Microwave Fire
- Only heat bowls, plates, mugs, or other utensils that are approved for microwave ovens. Look for an indicator on the product that says it is microwave safe.
- Never use metal, aluminum foil, or dishware that contains metal in a microwave. That metal can create sparks and that can then lead to a fire.
- Clean the inside of the microwave oven on a regular basis. Regular cleanings will reduce the likelihood of a fire.
- Always unplug the microwave before cleaning it.
- Avoid using recycled paper in a microwave. Even though it might seem okay to cover up food with a paper towel, a lot of recycled products can cause sparks.
- Do not place clothes or blankets in the microwave when attempting to dry items. It may seem fine in the microwave, but the fire can start once you remove the items.
- If you’re cooking popcorn, always begin popping at the minimum time specified on the packaging.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to detect and prevent a fire in your home, click here.