About the Chip Pan Fire Demonstration

Chip pan fire demonstration in a laboratory.
Chip pan fire demonstration in a laboratory.

Have you ever experienced a chip pan fire or other kitchen grease fire? This photograph actually is a simulated chip pan fire, produced as a demonstration. I have to wonder if the simulation was intended to be that spectacular. Also, I bet that fire was pretty intriguing to people passing by the lab outdoors.

Chip pan fires are the most common cause of house fires in the UK. A chip pan is a deep metal pan filled with oil used to fry chips (french fries). A fire can start if the oil gets too hot and ignites. Overfilling the pan or adding wet chips can cause oil to overflow the pan and catch fire, too. If you add water or wet chips to the pan, the water sinks to the bottom of the pan. The bottom of the pan is hot, so the water vaporizes. The water vapor expands, forcing the oil out of the pan (which can splash you with hot oil even if it doesn’t cause a fire).

Simulating a Chip Pan Fire

Back to that photograph… If you feel like setting your own lab on fire by trying the simulation, here’s how to set it up. You fill a metal beaker with wax, heat it over a Bunsen burner until it catches fire, then add a little water to the beaker (presumably from a distance). This also goes to show, dramatically, why you don’t want to try to put out a grease fire with water.

Chip Pan Fire Facts

The Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service put out an informative video about the dangers of chip pan fires and what you should do if one happens in your home: