How to prevent kitchen fires

Lee Brannon For The Union Daily Times

October 8, 2013

UNION COUNTY — The theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week is “Preventing Kitchen Fires” and the Union County Firefighters Association is urging the public to take steps to avoid this, the leading cause of house fires.

Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on Oct. 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on Oct. 9, 1871.

In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day Proclamation, and since 1922 Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period which Oct. 9 falls on. This week, Oct. 6-12, is Fire Prevention Week and the Union County Firefighters Association is joining with the non-profit National Fire Prevention Association and thousands of other fire departments throughout the United States to commemorate the week and its theme, Preventing Kitchen Fires. That commemoration includes this disturbing reminder:

How often has the doorbell rang or a child interrupted you while you were cooking, causing you to forget about the chicken you left sizzling on the stove until smoke filled your house? If the scenario or a similar one sounds familiar to you, you may want to think about it a little because it is likely that you, a friend or family member has run the risk of having a dangerous fire.

Leaving food cooking on the stove unattended and other unsafe kitchen practices are a recipe for disaster according to statistics compiled by the NFPA. The NFPA found that between 2007 and 2011, fire departments throughout the country responded to an average of 156,000 cooking-related fires a year, making cooking the leading cause of house fires in the United States.

To avoid becoming a statistic, the Union County Firefighters Association encourages the public to remember the following points:

• 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.

“Often when we are called to a cooking-related fire the residents will tell us they only left the kitchen for a few minutes,” Union County Firefighters Association President Lee Brannon said. “Sadly, that is all it takes for a dangerous fire to start. The bottom line is that there is really no safe period of time for the cook to step away from a hot stove.”

• Keep the cooking area clean and clear of combustibles (pot holders, towels, rags, and food packaging.)

• Keep children away from the cooking area by enforcing a “kid free zone” of three feet around the stove.

• 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 house and call 911.

“Please heed these simple safety rules,” Brannon said. “We the firefighters of Union County would like to be in your kitchen, but only when you invite us for dinner.”

Firefighter Parade

As part of the observance of Fire Prevention Week, there will be a firefighter parade at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 12 on Main Street in Union. Following the parade, firefighters will make their way to the Walmart parking lot where all the county’s fire departments will give out information concerning fires and/or the ways to protect you and your family. There will also be gifts for each child that will be present.

At noon there will be a corn hole tournament for all fire departments to crown the champion of Union County for 2013. In addition, the Rescue Squad will demonstrate what they do to assist the fire departments and the EMS. If the weather is clear Regional One will fly in to show families and the children what they do to help out the fire departments.

Hot dogs, chips, and drinks will be served.