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Preventing Fires and Severe Burns When in the Kitchen

Tom Kiurski is a lieutenant, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education for the Livonia, Michigan Fire & Rescue. He’s written a book, “Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators” as a guide for local fire departments to bring the safety message to their communities. Here’s a summary of his views on preventing kitchen fires and third-degree burns:

Under normal circumstances, most folks would not throw a kitchen cloth onto a burning stove, or help spread a fire from a pan to the cabinets, or add oxygen to a fire so that it flares up faster. Yet these things happens much too often because of panic. So let’s take a look at how we can use safety sense in the kitchen to reduce the of having an unwanted fire.

Cooking is the leading cause of fires and civilian fire injuries in the United States. Two out of three reported home cooking fires start with the range or stove–and usually involve food, grease, rags, bags, cabinets, curtains, or other household items getting ignited.

Consider this statistic: Each year, there are more than 110,000 home fires involving cooking equipment! These cooking fires result in about 350 civilian deaths, 4,200 civilian injuries and about $453 million in property damage per year. Those numbers are just from the fires that were reported to authorities–and those statistics do not include the number of firefighters who are injured or killed trying to fight these fires.

The main reason cited for kitchen fires is not paying attention. Even leaving the kitchen for a moment or two with the stove on can cause plenty of danger and potential damage and injury. As we all know, a person’s attention at home is often diverted for short periods by the children, the doorbell, a phone, radio, television, or a pet. Other times, people leave the kitchen and completely forget that they’ve started cooking! Once something gets overcooked, though, a fire can start and easily spread beyond the initial spot to other flammable or combustible products nearby, such as curtains and cabinets, and even other ingredients left on the counter.

Here are some safety tips for you to keep in mind when cooking:

• Never leave stove-top cooking unattended, and frequently monitor any food in the oven.
• Wear short sleeves or tight-fitting clothes–loose clothing can easily come into contact with hot objects or the stove flame. In an instant, you could be on fire!
• If clothing does catch fire, immediately stop, drop and roll back and forth over the flames to put them out. Do not run!
• Keep kids away from the cooking area by setting up a 3-foot buffer around the stove that kids should avoid. Keep the kids close enough to watch, but far away from hot objects.
• Always use oven mitts when handling hot cooking items, and don’t rush when handling hot objects.
• Don’t cook when you are tired, or if you have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.
• If a pan or pot of food catches fire, DO NOT use water. Slide a lid over the top of the pan or pot and shut off the heat to the burner. The lid will keep oxygen out and snuff out the fire.
• If there is a fire in the oven, shut off the heat to the unit and keep the door closed to starve the fire of oxygen.

Once you do these things, move to another room or outside the house and call the local fire department. You simply do not know if the situation will become one that you cannot handle on your own, so play it safe and call the professionals.