National Fire Prevention Week

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Columbus AFB will celebrate National Fire Prevention Week Oct. 8 through Oct. 14. This year's theme is "Prevent Cooking Fires. Watch What You Heat."

Many types of accidents can occur in the kitchen. Bodily injury can happen from cuts from broken glass or knives, falls from spills and bruises from falling objects; but one of the most painful injuries can result from burns.

According to the United States Fire Administration, cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the country. It is also the leading cause of fire injury. Cooking fires often result from unattended cooking and human error, rather than mechanical failures of stoves or ovens.

Many of us know the fire prevention rules, but distractions and haste make us temporarily forget safety when preparing a meal. Most kitchen fires occur from unattended cooking. It is best to stay in the kitchen while cooking, especially when using grease or oil in food preparation. The oil will get hotter until it starts to smoke; then it can burst into flames. Do not try to carry a flaming pan, which will endanger you more likely spread the flames. If grease catches on fire, water will spread the fire; so do not pour water on it.

Try to turn the heat off under the pan and cover it with a lid or a larger pan to smother the fire. If the fire makes stove knobs on an electric range inaccessible, turn off the stove circuit breaker. A dry chemical fire extinguisher in the kitchen is ideal for grease fires, but people must know how to use it properly. If the fire is large, go to a neighbor's home and call the fire department. It is important to keep the stovetop and adjacent area free of anything that will burn, such as paper and fabric. Long hair, curtains, potholders, loose clothing, paper towels, boxes, plastic utensils or bags can fuel a fire and cause a small fire to quickly spread. Wipe spilled grease as soon as possible. Use the lowest cooking level possible to avoid overheating grease, burning food and causing boil overs.

Before cleaning a self-cleaning oven, wipe excess spills or spilled grease. Fires have resulted while the oven is cleaning itself. The fire department suggests calling 911 when a self-cleaning oven catches fire during the cleaning cycle. Do not try to force the door open. Toaster ovens and toasters frequently have a door on the bottom to enable people to clean excess crumbs and spills that might fuel a fire. Avoid using appliances that give any indication they might be defective.

Fires do no pose the only safety risk in the kitchen. Always keep pot handles turned in so they do not extend over the front or open sides of the stove. Bumping the handle can cause a spill that could lead to serious burns. Also keep handles away from other burners that are in use or still hot.

Keep long appliance cords out of the way, as they can get tangled in something and cause a spill.

Loose sleeves, long hair and clothing might catch fire, especially with a gas stove; but they also can catch on pots and cause spills. Do not use a wet cloth when picking up hot dishes or pots. The heat will create steam that could burn your hand and possibly cause you to drop the hot dish.

Grease in the kitchen is also dangerous. Use a deep fat frying basket or long handled slotted spoon when adding foods to hot grease. The moisture in the food or an air pocket The moisture in the food or an air pocket in the grease can cause it to splatter and possibly burn someone. Keep other liquids away from the grease; liquid added to hot oil will turn to steam and spray hot oil in all directions.

Steam can cause burns, too. When opening a container with boiling liquid, open the lid away from your body so the lid is between yourself and the escaping steam. This will protect your face and hands, and allow the steam to escape away from you. 

There will always be distractions in the kitchen. However, if there is too much going on or if you have to leave the room, it is better to turn off the stove and briefly interrupt ooking than risk a fire or burn. 

For more information, contact the Columbus AFB Fire Prevention Section at Ext. 2269 or Ext. 2270.

(Editor's note: Information for this article was taken from www.nfpa.org)