SPECIAL REPORT: Live and Learn Pt. 2 - Grease Fires

Lawton_What do you do if when you're cooking a grease fire starts?  Throw water on it?  Baking soda?  Flour?  Many are familiar with ways to prevent fires, but what do you do when you're facing the flames in your kitchen?

Sometimes precious minutes cannot be spared when attempting to take control of the situation, and there are many firefighting myths out there - some of which could turn a small fire into an inferno, and could have you facing a life and death situation.

Many people's first instinct is to use water when trying to extinguish a fire.  We all know it's fire's worst enemy, but when the flames are fueled by a combustible liquid - like grease - water becomes fire's best friend.  Firefighters have been trying to educate the public on the dangers of using water on grease fires.

And, there are other myths about which kind of household products are safe to use when putting out a grease fire - one of which is baking soda.  Most households have the little orange box in the fridge, but it isn't nearly enough - and like water, one thing you definitely don't want to throw on a fire is flour.  "Flour is made from grain, and grain is combustible," says Lawton Fire Marshal Mark Mitchell.  "If you've ever dropped a bag of flour and saw a little white cloud, that's combustible dust.  So it could be very dangerous throwing flour on a burning fire, it could actually, for lack of a better term, explode in your face."

Experts say that the best way to tackle a grease fire is to suffocate it.  First, turn off the heat, then - the fire brigade suggests - use a wet towel.  But, Mitchell says a lid is safer.  Simply cover the pot - keeping clear of the flames - and immediately back away from the steam.  If the fire is spreading beyond the pot, use a fire extinguisher.

If you are unsure of how to use an extinguisher correctly, however, you could do more harm than good.  "This is kind of like going camping in the woods," says Mitchell.  "If you've got a handgun for safety because there's bears in the woods, and the bear comes to the tent, you're not going to grab the gun, and run up to the bear, and then get it out and start loading it," he says.  "[It's the] same with this, you're not going to run up to the fire and then start doing all this"

The Fire Marshal advises that you take caution.  "Use the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire, but always remember to keep an exit or a means of egress behind you so that you don't get trapped if the extinguisher doesn't work, malfunctions, or it doesn't put the fire out, [so]you don't end up trapped," he says.  "Aim the hose, point it low, squeeze the handle, and sweep it back and forth...and, watch the fire.  Keep your eye on it."

It should only take a few seconds to extinguish a fire, but even if you are able to extinguish the flames on your own, call the fire department anyway.  They'll come, at no cost, to inspect your home and make sure the fire didn't spread somewhere that you can't see.  "We've had fires in the past, that somebody had a small fire, didn't call us, and didn't realize it had gotten in to the wall and it progressed into the attic," says Mitchell.  "Then, when we get there, the structure's on fire."

To survive a house fire, make sure you have working smoke detectors, keep fire extinguishers charged, and have a practiced escape plan.

But, Fire safety isn't only about what you can do to keep your family safe.  You also should know how to help firefighters responding to the scene.  7News reporter Elaina Rusk donned 75-pounds worth of gear to face the fire herself, and learn just how hard the job is.

Finding a fire may be difficult for them, since firefighters don't' know the layout of your home.  The hose they carry is long, heavy, and pressurized - and, it has a lot of kick.  A thick cloud of smoke can leave firefighters virtually blind, and rhythmic breathing on a regulator is difficult.  If a firefighter gets overworked - as Elaina learned for herself - hard and fast breathing can over task the tank, and make breathing difficult.

Sometimes young children are frightened by the sound of the regulator, and may hide from firefighters.  So, families should practice an escape plan so that when panic sets in - everyone knows what to do.

Most importantly, while firefighters battle the flames - make sure to stay out of their way.