Cooking fires prevention becomes priority across US

9 Oct 2013 | Lance Cpl. Joshua W. Grant

Firefighters nationwide and aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune are advocating cooking safety during this year’s Fire Prevention Week.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 40 percent of all U.S. structural fires are cooking related, but aboard Camp Lejeune, 57 percent of fires have been related to cooking. It’s everybody’s responsibility to reduce the number of cooking fires, said Timothy Johnson, assistant chief of fire prevention for Marine Corps Installations East, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

“Sixteen cooking fires occurred last year on base,” said Johnson. “Just in the past 30 days there have been two reported events of unattended cooking.”

Homeowners can take measures to prevent fires, added Johnson.

“The biggest thing is to never leave the cooking area,” said Johnson. “If there’s an emergency, make sure you turn the heat off or remove the food from the heat source. Microwaves can be just as big of an issue as ovens or stoves. Even though the person can’t feel the heat, it is still there.”

Johnson added when cooking, if there is a fire in the pan, using a lid to smother the fire is the best option. People should also remove all flammable items and substances from the stove top before use and ensure the stove is cleaned regularly.

“Avoid wearing loose clothing, it can hang and possibly catch fire,” said Johnson. “A top priority is to keep children out of the cooking area as well. A three foot safety zone is advised to keep children from getting burned, but if children do want to cook, they should be supervised.”

Herman Wallace, Station 3 fire captain, recommends residents check home smoke detectors monthly for function and battery life. He also advises every home have a fire extinguisher readily available.

“Safety is a responsibility,” said Wallace. “We shouldn’t have to wait until something bad happens to learn what we should be doing right.”

All fires aboard base should be reported, regardless of their severity, said Johnson. Reporting ensures accurate data on causes, but also ensures the fire hasn’t spread where people can’t see it, he added.

“We have infrared gear to find out if the fire has spread into the walls,” said Johnson. “There can be no smoke or visible flame, but it can still be very dangerous.”

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