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October 4, 2013
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Guest column: Stand by your pan: Prevent kitchen fires

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 smoke filled the house?

If this scenario sounds familiar to you, then you may want to think about it a little more because it’s likely that you, a friend or family member has run the risk of having a dangerous fire.

The Douglas County Fire Prevention Co-op, made up of fire departments across Douglas County, often talks to people about the ways they can stay safe in their homes. Too often though, we find ourselves having that talk after they’ve suffered a damaging fire.

The Douglas County Fire Prevention Co-op hopes that people reading this article won’t have to learn the hard way. If we could give just one fire warning, it would be, “Keep an eye on what you fry!”

Why? Because cooking is the leading cause of home fires, according to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association. The latest statistics from NFPA say U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 156,600 cooking-related fires between 2007-2011. According to the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, between 2008 and 2012 there were 3,601 fires, 219 injuries, and four deaths as a result of cooking fires in Oregon. Locally in Douglas County, we saw 108 cooking-related fires resulting in eight injuries over the same time period.

Because of this, the Douglas County Fire Prevention Co-op is joining forces with NFPA and thousands of other fire departments across North America to commemorate Fire Prevention Week from Oct. 6-12. The theme, “Prevent Kitchen Fires,” reminds us that leaving cooking unattended and other unsafe kitchen practices are a recipe for disaster.

Often when firefighters are called to a cooking-related fire, the residents say that 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 there’s really no safe period of time for the cook to step away from a hot stove. A few key points to remember are:

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.

Keep cooking areas clean and clear of combustibles (e.g. potholders, towels, rags, drapes and food packaging).

Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a “kid-free zone” of 3 feet around the stove.

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.

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.

A cooking fire can quickly turn deadly. Firefighters 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. We firefighters would like to be in your kitchen, but only when you invite us for dinner!

To help prevent devastating, unwanted fires, the Douglas County Fire Prevention Cooperative will host a three-day fire prevention event at Home Depot from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 8, 9 and 10.

There is no charge to attend. The event will showcase a variety of emergency equipment and fire prevention booths from numerous emergency response agencies from around Douglas County.

Kyle Reed of Myrtle Creek is the fire prevention specialist for the Douglas Forest Protective Association and is the president of the Douglas County Fire Prevention Co-op. He can be reached at

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The News-Review Updated Oct 4, 2013 11:44AM Published Oct 10, 2013 07:20PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.