How often has the doorbell rung or a child interrupted you while you were cooking, causing you to forget about the chicken you left sizzling on the stove? Until the house was filled with smoke?
If this scenario is familiar to you or someone you know, you have run a risk of having a dangerous fire.
As Fire Marshal of the Cosumnes Fire Department, I often talk to people about the ways they can stay safe in their homes. Too often, we have that talk when it is too late.
If I could give just one fire warning, I'd say, "Keep an eye on what you fry!"
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking is the leading cause of home fires. The latest statistics from the NFPA say that U.S. Fire Departments responded to an average of 156,600 cooking-related fires annually between 2007 and 2011.
We're joining forces with NFPA and thousands of other fire departments across North America to commemorate Fire Prevention Week, October 6-12th, "Prevent Kitchen Fires." The theme reminds us that leaving cooking unattended and other unsafe kitchen practices are a recipe for disaster.
Often when we're called to a cooking-related fire, the residents tell us they only left the kitchen for a few minutes. Sadly, that's all it takes for a dangerous fire to start. The bottom line is that there's really no safe period of time for the cook to step away from a hot stove.
A Few Key Points to Remember
A cooking fire can quickly turn deadly. I have seen too many homes destroyed and people killed or injured by fires that could have been easily avoided. Please heed these simple safety rules.
Always keep an oven mitt and a lid nearby. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan (make sure you are wearing the oven mitt). Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. To keep the fire from restarting, do not remove the lid until it is completely cool. Never pour water on a grease fire. If the fire does not go out, get out of the home and call the fire department.
If an oven fire starts, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. If the fire does not go out, get out of the home and call the fire department.
If you have a fire in your microwave, turn it off immediately and keep the door closed. Never open the door until the fire is completely out. If in doubt, get out of the home and call the fire department.
Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a "kid-free zone" of three feet around the stove.
Keep cooking areas clean and clear of combustibles (e.g. potholders, towels, rags, drapes and food packaging).
Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you must leave the room even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
When you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, stay in the home, and use a timer to remind you.