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Cooking grime, combustibles near stoves caused 325 fires in Japan over 5 years

(Left) A dirty, blocked burner cap is seen. (Right) A gas stove lights abnormally due to dirt blocking the burner cap. (Photos courtesy of NITE)

Poorly cleaned gas stoves and microwaves, as well as flammable items placed nearby, caused 325 fires between fiscal 2011 and 2015, resulting in three deaths, the National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (NITE) said.

In 184 of these cases, the cause of the fire was either cooking appliance grime or food or liquid boiling over, according to NITE. Fifteen people were either seriously or slightly injured in the fires, the institute said.

Some of the fires were caused by gas stoves lighting abnormally due to "burner caps" becoming blocked with grime. Other fires resulted from combustion of oil and fat accumulating in internal grill trays that are often used to cook fish. In another 60 cases, food remains inside microwave ovens caught fire.

Altogether, 141 cases involved flammable items near stoves catching fire. These cases caused three deaths and 19 injuries. In one of them, a newspaper that had been placed on top of an electric stove caught fire after the stove switch was inadvertently turned on. The stove had been subject to a product recall.

To help prevent such accidents, NITE recommends that people clean cooking appliances such as stoves thoroughly, avoid placing flammable items nearby, and also check whether they have any items that are subject to product recalls.

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