The number one cause of home fires and home injuries is unattended cooking, according to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA). Valdosta Fire Chief Freddie Broome urges all community members to pay attention while cooking in the kitchen and to remind family members to do the same.
In the past seven days, firefighters have responded to three structure fires that were caused by unattended cooking. All three fires occurred in homes that did not have a smoke detector installed or one that was not working properly. The fires resulted in approximately $50,000 worth of damage and at least one transport to the hospital for smoke-related illness.
In 2016, of the 121 confirmed structure fires that Valdosta firefighters responded to, 32.7% began in the kitchen. The numbers closely reflect those reported by the NFPA, in which unattended cooking was a factor in 33% of reported home cooking fires and 49% of the associated deaths across the country.
Chief Broome encourages family members to take some time to discuss cooking safety with each other. A few moments to discuss the following tips with loved ones could prevent loss of property, or even a life.
- Be alert. If you have consumed alcohol or have taken medication that makes you sleepy, do not use the stovetop, the oven or microwave.
- If you must leave the kitchen—even for a short period of time—while you are grilling, broiling or frying, turn off the stove.
- Check your food regularly while cooking.
- Keep anything that can catch fire—such as oven mitts, paper or wooden spoons—away from the stovetop.
- Never use water on a grease fire. Instead, turn off the burner and spread baking soda on the area.
- For an oven fire, simply turn off the oven and leave the door closed.
- Always keep a 3-foot kid and pet-free zone around the stove to prevent burn injuries.
- Be sure your home has a 5 lb. ABC extinguisher, and have it handy in case of a fire.
- If you use the extinguisher on a fire, make sure that you never turn your back on the fire and never allow the fire to cut off your exit.
- Make sure to aim the nozzle of the extinguisher at the base of the fire and not the actual flames before squeezing the handle.
- Remember PASS when using an extinguisher: Pull the pin. Aim the nozzle. Squeeze the handle. Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
- If you have any doubts about putting the fire out yourself, get out immediately making sure to close the door behind you. Alert everyone in the home to get out.
- Call 911 from a safe distance.
“Please do not attempt to cook if you are tired, sleepy or have consumed alcohol,” said Chief Broome. “We must do a better job of paying attention to the tasks at hand. The lives of the people we love depend on it.”
Chief Broome also stresses the importance of having a working smoke detector in every room of the house. Firefighters are available to inspect and install smoke detectors for anyone who requests their assistance.
Fire safety tips and other safety-related information are posted at www.valdostacity.com/fire. For more information, call the Valdosta Fire Department at 229-333-1835.