World Wide Research into Cooker Fires

Cooker or Stove fires cause approximately 60% of all reported household fires throughout the world. This is not a new phenomena. Cooker fires are caused by the occupant leaving the cooker on unattended.

From the mid 1960’s Smoke Alarms have started to be used to detect this and other fires. The installation of Smoke Alarms and Fire Alarms Systems is now mandatory in many situations, as is the requirement to contain the Fumes and Fire by use of Fire Doors etc.

These solutions have reached their limit of effectiveness. Now technology is moving from giving a warning and containing a fire, to taking direct intervention and stopping the fire.

Research is taking place on two fronts.

The first is to really understand the progression from the normal cooking process, to it turning into a full blown fire. This is a complex situation. The latest excellent Award winning research by  Robin Zevotek, P.E., and Thomas Fabian, Ph.D. from UL and University of Maryland, titled “Cooking Fire Prevention" summarizes their experiments aimed at determining if precursors to cooking fires can help prevent the incidents. It is noted (page 25) that for a pan of oil, detection of over heating is at approximately 20 minutes and self-combustion at 35 minutes. This gives a 15 minute window of opportunity for an automated system to intervene.

The second area of research is in examining available products and technologies for stopping cooker top fires.

In October 2011, As reported in the NFPA JOURNAL  is the report by the highly respected Hughes Associates senior engineer Daniel T. Gottuk, Ph.D., P.E. And Joshua Dinaburg and their 131 page report Home Cooking Fire Mitigation: Technology Assessment which following their in depth investigation they seem to conclude that a Detector coupled with some method of controlling the cooker rings is the best way to stop fires.

In October 2010, Vision 20/20 published their 68 page report on their workshop regarding “Kitchen Fire Prevention Technologies”.  Many observations were made, but they were unable to clearly identify a way forward.

In May 2001, Arthur D. Little, Inc. Published a 128 page report tiled “Technical, Practical and Manufacturing Feasibility of Technologies to Address Surface Cooking Fires”. This is a very detailed report including 23 different methods of stopping cooker fires. None of them are 100% operationally successfully and he also doesn’t consider their cost and its’ impact on the likelihood of them ever being widely used. Also, he does not comment on the simplest method of all. Take a signal from the established technology of Smoke Alarms and use it to turn the power off. This is how the TripActivator stops fires.

In 2009, a study called “Reducing Residential Stovetop Fires In Ontario” concluded “Technology can be used to prevent ignition or to mitigate the effects if a fire should occur.  technological systems that limit a stove’s heat or shut off the cooking equipment before or when a fire occurs have some obvious advantages. In addition, to gain wide market acceptance, it must be inexpensive”.