Is It Safe To Leave The Oven On & Leave The House?

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If you’ve ever been in the situation of putting the oven on for dinner only to realise that you need to pop to the shops to get a final ingredient then you may have considered leaving the oven on and unattended.

However, this is a bad idea.

It is unsafe to leave the oven on and leave the house – even if you’re only going to be gone for five or ten minutes. That’s because it only takes seconds for an oven to catch fire and cause catastrophic damage to your home.

Research conducted by the New York Fire Department published in 2020 found that between the years of 2014 and 2018, unattended cooking was by far the leading factor in cooking fires and cooking fire casualties.

In this case, 31% of all fires and 53% of all deaths were a result of equipment being left unattended.

Will My Oven Set On Fire If I Leave It On Unattended?

It’s impossible to say for certain whether or not your oven will set on fire if you leave it unattended.

However, the issue with you leaving your oven unattended while cooking comes with your response time should something happen during the cooking process.

If you’re in the house and the oven catches fire then you are likely to smell the burning, see the smoke or be alerted by your smoke alarm and action on the issue within a matter of minutes. 

However, if you’re out at the shops while your oven catches fire then it could be ten minutes to an hour before you’re home. By which point the fire will have likely spread through the home.

Meanwhile, if you nip to the store to grab that last ingredient while leaving the oven on but are caught in traffic or an accident then in that case the five minute trip to the shop could be hours.

If your oven isn’t on a timer or doesn’t have an automatic shut off then the food is going to continue cooking, burning and ultimately resulting in a fire.

What Increases The Risk Of An Oven Fire?

While research has found that leaving an appliance unattended is the leading cause of home cooking fires there are other situations that can increase the risk, this includes;

  • Unknowingly turning the appliance on or off
  • Cooking foods with a high volume of fat & grease
  • Incorrectly cleaning the appliance
  • Not cleaning the appliance frequently enough
  • Cooking with materials unsuitable for an oven
  • Setting the oven timer incorrectly
  • Appliance failure

Will My Oven Turn Off Automatically?

Some ovens have built-in timers that result in the appliance turning off after a pre-set amount of time has passed.

You’ll be able to find out if your oven has a timer that turns it off automatically by researching the make and model number online or checking the manual.

However, you shouldn’t rely on this feature to stop the food from cooking while you leave the appliance unattended.

Electric Oven

That’s because a fire could easily start in the meantime before the timer has ended the cooking process.

Alternatively, the timer could fail altogether or you could accidentally set it with the wrong time period.

In this case, the oven won’t shut off and instead continue cooking the food, resulting in burnt food at best.

Can You Leave The Oven On Low While You Leave The House?

If you’re cooking a large turkey for the holidays then it can be tempting to turn the temperature of the oven down so the meat can continue cooking while you’re out.

However, this is again not advisable.

While the chances of your oven catching fire are likely to increase with a higher cooking temperature (unable to find evidence to back this up, just personal theory).

Food covered with foil on a glass baking sheet in a home kitchen oven is ready to cook.

It’s still very possible that the oven could short circuit, and / or catch fire while you’re out.

Again, it’s not as much about how the fire starts as your reaction time should one start.

If you’ve gone to the store leaving the oven cooking on low while you’re out and a fire does break out it could be 20 minutes to an hour before you’re able to realise and take action.

Fires take only minutes to spread and would not only result in a burnt turkey but likely result in you needing an entirely new kitchen.

Insurance experts are able to see first-hand how both the holidays and leaving appliances unattended result in an increased number of kitchen fires.

According to Greg Raab of Adjusters International, a public adjusting firm in Utica, N.Y., his company sees a noticeable spike in kitchen fire claims during the holidays.

Should you knowingly leave the house while the oven is on then an argument could possibly be made by your insurance that you have been negligible and leaving you unable to make a claim.

Can You Get Carbon Monoxide Poisoning From Leaving The Oven On?

Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless gas that can cause serious health problems if inhaled.

Given that carbon monoxide is a gas it’s not surprising that you’re more likely to experience it leaking from a gas oven.

While all ovens are sealed and not supposed to release any toxic fumes. This can occur if the appliance is fitted incorrectly, faulty or damaged.

In this case, carbon monoxide could begin leaking into your home.

The amount of gas leaking into your home could be happening while the oven is turned off, however, it’s likely to increase when the oven is turned on, especially over long periods of time.

You can minimise the likelihood of carbon monoxide poisoning from your oven by;

  • Having a qualified fitter fit your appliance into your kitchen
  • Having your appliances serviced regularly
  • Cleaning your appliance in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines
  • Replacing / repairing faulty appliances

Since carbon monoxide is odourless and colourless you’ll often not realise it’s leaking into your home until it’s too late.

However, there are some signs that can alert you to carbon monoxide poisoning, these include;

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • General weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blurred Vision

In all cases, it’s highly advisable to install a Co2 monitor in your kitchen which sounds an alarm should carbon monoxide be leaking.

How To Put Out An Oven Fire

Of course, leaving your oven unattended is just one of the many ways your oven could catch fire.

As such it’s a good idea to know how to put out a fire from your oven should one occur. Especially since the process is going to vary depending on whether your oven is powered by gas or electricity.

How To Put Out A Gas Oven Fire

If you notice a fire call the fire department, while the fire might only be small now it could get worse in the minutes that proceed so it’s best to have the fire department on their way as you look to contain the situation if you can.

In most cases, a telephone operator at the fire department will walk you through the process of putting out an electric oven fire.

If the fire is spreading quickly, remove yourself from the situation and wait for the fire department to arrive. It’s better to have a burnt down kitchen than lose your life in a kitchen fire.

If the fire is relatively contained and you personally feel comfortable proceeding then you could look to put the fire out or try and prevent the fire from travelling further.

To begin look to turn the oven off if it’s safe to do so.

If the fire is coming from food that’s caught in the oven you can try and extinguish it with a fire extinguisher or by covering the flames in a fire blanket or heavy towel.

In some cases, baking soda can also be effective if you have enough to smother the flames.

Be sure to aim at the base of the fire, not at the flames themselves as this could cause them to spread.

Do not attempt to put the fire out from your gas oven with water as the heat from the fire will boil the water almost immediately, which can put you at risk for steam burns.

How To Put Out An Electric Oven Fire

If you notice a fire call the fire department, while the fire might only be small now it could get worse in the minutes that proceed so it’s best to have the fire department on their way as you look to contain the situation if you can.

In most cases, a telephone operator at the fire department will walk you through the process of putting out an electric oven fire.

If the fire is spreading quickly, remove yourself from the situation and wait for the fire department to arrive. It’s better to have a burnt down kitchen than lose your life in a kitchen fire.

If the fire is relatively contained and you personally feel comfortable proceeding then you could look to put the fire out or try and prevent the fire from travelling further.

To begin look to turn the oven off if it’s safe to do so.

Then, cover the fire with a fire blanket or heavy towel.

Covering the fire will help smother any remaining flames and prevent oxygen from fanning the fire.

Since the oven is electrical you should not throw water onto the flames. Water conducts electricity and this could result in you being electrocuted.

If you have a kitchen fire extinguisher that you feel comfortable using you can follow the instructions on that to help put the fire out further.

Alternatively, baking soda has also been found to put out electrical fires.