Officials declare 'war on kitchen fires'

info@islandpacket.comOctober 7, 2012 

According to the Beaufort Fire Department, every fire that originates in a kitchen is preventable. The leading cause of kitchen fires? Unattended cooking.

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More than half the structural fires in Beaufort during the past 12 months started in kitchens, a rate higher than the national average and enough of a concern that the Beaufort Fire Department is launching a "war on kitchen fires."

The department's plans coincide with Fire Prevention Week, which began Sunday.

In the past 12 months, the department has responded to 26 fires in buildings, according to a news release. Of those, 14 originated in the kitchen, seven were caused by electrical shorts and two were caused by improperly discarded smoking materials, according to fire department records.

"Over 53 percent of all of our fires originate in the kitchen," Beaufort Fire Chief Sammy Negron said. "The national average for kitchen fires is 44 percent. Fires that start in a kitchen have been the No. 1 reported cause of house fires since 1990.

"We want to help make kitchens and homes safer."

October is Fire Safety Month, and this week is Fire Prevention Week.

"Our department is scheduled to conduct 16 fire prevention presentations this month," Capt. John Robinson, training and education officer for the department, said in a news release.

"Every presentation we do has an element of kitchen safety," Robinson said. "From kindergarteners to college students, every person we speak to about fire safety will hear us talk about preventing fires in the kitchen."

"We have reached more than 1,300 adults and 4,600 children since January of this year, but that's not enough because the fires keep starting, homes keep burning and people's lives are at risk," he added.

To prevent home fires, the department recommends:

  • Paying attention: Every fire that originated in a kitchen was preventable, the fire department says. The leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking. Someone forgot the burner was on, became distracted or turned on the wrong burner.

  • Ensuring smoke alarms work: Smoke alarms do not prevent fires, but they provide the early warning necessary to save lives and limit property damage. Have smoke alarms installed in your home, test them regularly and replace the batteries at least annually.

  • Using extension cords properly: Nationally, half of all fires involve electrical wiring and appliances. Most of those are caused by improper use, according to the department. That's especially important with the holidays approaching. If you use electrical decorations for Halloween, use the proper type of extension cord.

  • Avoiding candles: Open flames start 35 fires every day in the United States. If you must burn a candle, do so in a safe place, away from other combustibles and in an approved container. Always be sure candles are extinguished before leaving the house.

  • Keeping close watch over smoking materials: Improperly extinguished cigarettes and other smoking materials result in 17,500 structure fires and more than 500 deaths every year in the United States.

  • Those interested in speaking to a fire-prevention specialist should contact the Beaufort Fire Department at 843-525-7055 or by emailing city-fire@cityofbeaufort.org.

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