Prevent cooking fires

Published 11:20 pm Friday, October 8, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth in a series of stories commemorating National Fire Prevention Week 2010. For more information on fire safety and prevention, visit www.nfpa.org.

This year’s theme for National Fire Prevention Week is “Smoke alarms: A sound you can live with,” but fire experts urge residents to take proper precautions so that the smoke alarm is needed as rarely as possible.

Cooking is the number one cause of home fires and home injuries, according to the National Fire Prevention Association.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 86 percent of all fire-related deaths and 77 percent of all fire-related injuries are caused by home fires. There were nearly 400,000 residential fires with a resulting 2,500 deaths and 13,000 injuries in the United States in 2009.

One of the most common causes of a cooking fire is unattended cooking, Suffolk Fire Marshal James Dickens said.

“If you’re in the kitchen you need to be alert,” he said. “If you’re tired, sleepy or have consumed alcohol, it’s not a good idea to be cooking.”

Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop. Also, turn handles of any pots on the stove inward and away from small children who might be able to reach up and pull them down.

Should a fire occur, it’s important to remain calm and treat it properly.

In the case of a grease fire, slide a cookie sheet or lid slowly over the pot.

“Like everything else, grease and oil have an ignition temperature,” Dickens said. “If it gets hot enough, it will catch on fire.”

“Never, ever put water on a grease fire and don’t pick up the pan,” Dickens said.

It may seem like a good idea to take it outside, “but you do not want to chance spilling it,” Dickens said.

If a fire occurs in the oven or another contained area, “keep it closed and deprive the fire of oxygen,” Dickens said. A fire with no oxygen will soon die out.

Dickens reminds people that a situation like a kitchen fire would be a good time to use a fire extinguisher, which should be located near the kitchen area.

“We encourage the use of a fire extinguisher, but don’t stay behind and try to fight it,” Dickens said. “If you’re using a fire extinguisher, you should have already called the fire department.

For more information on cooking safety, visit www.nfpa.org.