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Preventing kitchen fires theme for annual awareness campaign

By Staff | Oct 10, 2013

On average, there are approximately 3,000 kitchen fires reported each day in the country.

The kitchen is the leading area of origin for residential fires and most kitchen fires are caused by cooking, according to the National Fire Protection Association. This year, preventing kitchen fires is the theme for Fire Prevention Week, an annual awareness campaign, which runs from Oct. 1-12.

“Kitchen fires continue to be the No. 1 cause of residential fires in the United States,” Capt. Michael Heeder, the spokesman for the Cape Coral Fire Department, said Thursday.

Historically, the largest amount of damage has been caused by kitchen fires.

“We want to make sure we can stop fires before they start,” he said, citing education and community involvement. “Fire Prevention Week is a critical component of every fire department’s mission.”

In honor of the campaign, the CCFD stopped by several schools. Students got to see the gear used by firefighters and reviewed basic fire safety, and some even sprayed the water hose on a fire truck.

“Throughout this week, our firefighters have been visiting elementary schools and preschools throughout the city – teaching kids the importance of fire safety and, more importantly, not to be scared of firefighters,” Heeder said.

Bobbie Noonan’s Child Care, located off of Pelican Boulevard, was one of the stops, along with Gulf Elementary School, Oasis Elementary School and Kid’s World Preschool, off Diplomat Parkway.

“It takes a team effort to stop fire and burn injuries,” Fire Chief Timothy Hayes said in a prepared statement released earlier in the week. “We may never know what impact we have on a child, but if that one interaction, that one teachable moment, stops a child from playing with a lighter or knowing what to do it a fire breaks out during the night, then everything we do is worth it.”

On Saturday, the CCFD is hosting a citywide open house at all of the 10 fire stations.

“Our firefighters will be opening our doors and letting the community in,” Heeder said. “We want citizens to see and know that the taxes that they pay, that they’re getting their money’s worth.”

The event runs from 9 a.m. to noon. It is open to the public and all ages are welcome.

“Come out and expect to have a really good time,” he said, noting that residents will meet the fire crew at their local neighborhood station. “Our firefighters are really excited to have everyone come out.”

Fire equipment will be on display, and fire crews will be on hand to speak with families about home fire safety. Presentations for adults and children on kitchen safety and cooking safety are also planned. Heeder explained that the firefighters will use the kitchen at each station in the safety demonstration.

“Watch what you heat. Keep an eye on the kitchen,” he said, citing some of the basics.

“Make sure your stove is not left unattended,” Heeder added.

Unattended cooking was a factor in 34 percent of home cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The ignition of food or other cooking materials started two-thirds of those fires.

On Saturday, firefighters will also talk about what to do in a fire and having an escape plan.

Residents can have their picture taken by a fire engine with firefighters.

“We’re encouraging families to bring their camera,” Heeder said.

There will be fire hats and stickers for the children and take-home brochures for the adults.

“Parents will be given information,” he said.

The National Fire Protection Association offered the following kitchen safety tips:

* Be alert. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, do not use the stove or stovetop.

* Keep an eye on what you fry. Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If your leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.

* If you are simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.

* Keep anything that can catch fire – oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels and curtains – away from your stovetop.

* Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

“The best thing that you can do is always pay attention to your surroundings,” Heeder said. “Don’t go off and leave cooking food on the stove.”

He also suggested checking smoke detectors monthly and changing the batteries as needed.

“Lastly, communicate with your family and friends – make sure everyone knows what to do if the fire alarm goes off,” Heeder said.

In the case of a small grease fire, covering the pot or pan with its lid can smother the flames. Officials also recommend having a small fire extinguisher in the kitchen in the area opposite from the stove.

“If necessary, use the fire extinguisher,” he said.

When the fire is extinguished, turn the stove off if it can be done safely.

“Make sure you call the fire department, no matter how small the fire or smoke condition may be,” Heeder said, adding that firefighters can make sure the fire is out and that the residence is safe.

For more information, visit online at: www.nfpa.org/safety-information/fire-prevention-week.

For regular fire safety tips, news and information from the Cape Coral Fire Department, and more, follow the CCFD at: www.twitter.com/CapeCoralFD or like it at: www.facebook.com/CapeCoralFD.