Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fire Point

Call me stupid. I didn't know that oil could spontaneously combust. I learned first hand that it certainly can.

I learned on Pinterest that Pillsbury Grands biscuits make pretty good doughnuts (more like scones, though, or fry bread; it doesn't have the same flavor as doughnuts). They were on sale, so I thought I would try it out. Because of my lack of time, they sat in my fridge for a week. Finally, on Sunday I had the time to try it out. I put some canola in a small pan and put it on the stove. I started making the rest of my dinner, too, when the doorbell rang. It was a good friend from a previous ward. I invited him in to catch up, but after only a few minutes of talking with him I saw a flash of orange light come from the kitchen. I knew instantly what was going on. I had taken the asparagus off the stove, but I didn't think I would need to take the oil off, too. Oops.

I immediately took it off the stove. Then not sure what to do, I just held it. Then, I thought I would try the baking soda suggestion, knowing that water was not the right course of action, but the baking soda seemed to make it worse. The fire flared up. Smoke was filling the room, so I took it outside to prevent any further smoke damage. Fortunately the fire was contained within the pot. Every smoke detector in the house was going off, but with the problem at least removed, even if it was just relocated to the outdoors, I googled if baking soda was really the proper extinguisher. The Internet confirmed my initial though, so I tried it again. This time it worked without a problem. I guess the fire was just too hot for it, or I didn't put enough on the fire. I learned a couple lessons that evening: baking soda really does work and don't over heat oil.

From the Internet:
"Heat points for fats include "flash" and "fire" points at 600 and 700 degrees, respectively. Do not put out an oil fire with water, the water will splatter the burning oil and spread it more quickly. Smother the fire with a tight-fitting lid. If the fire has spread outside the pan, suffocate it with baking soda or a fire extinguisher formulated for oil fires.

"Cooking oil that has reached boiling point (bubbling) is very dangerous. If the oil starts to boil, remove it from the heat source immediately. Simply turning off the heat source may not be enough to reduce the heat immediately for electric appliances, or cook tops because they retain heat even after they are turned off. An oil reaches its flash point at about 600°F. when tiny wisps of fire begin to leap from its surface. If the oil is heated to its fire point 700° F. for most oils, its surface will start vaporising and spontaneously ignite, surging up and out almost instantly."1

For your entertainment, this is what happens when you use water, sent to me by my similarly pyro-happy friend:

I might try the wet towel next time. But over all, the worst that happened was a small though not so minor burn and some soot throughout the house. It could have been much worse, so I am grateful that it turned out to be nothing more than some unexpected pyrotechnics.

No comments: