Fire Prevention Week examines kitchen fire safety

By Melissa Huber, I-O Reporter

In 1871 on Oct. 8 a fire began in or around the barn of Mrs. Catherine O’Leary, which grew into one of the most memorable blazes of history. The Great Chicago Fire spread from the barn of Mrs. O’Leary and raged for two whole days, doing most of its damage on the second day.

This, combined with the events of a fire in Peshtigo, WI that began the same day, prompted the International Fire Marshals Association (formerly known as the Fire Marshals Association of North America) to start Fire Prevention Week after the 40th anniversary of the Chicago Fire.

Since its inception in 1922, the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) has chosen a theme for Fire Prevention Week, the longest running public health and safety observance on record. This year the theme will cover the issue of preventing kitchen fires.

In 2011 an estimated 156,300 home fires were started by some sort of cooking accident. From those there were approximately 470 deaths, over 5,300 injuries, and more than one million dollars in property damages. With statistics like that, it’s not hard to believe that cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries.

The NFPA provides this handy checklist to make sure you have the right ingredients for kitchen fire safety:

1. Be sure your smoke alarm is at least ten feet from a cooking appliance; it should be a photoelectric type or have a hush button feature.

2. Make a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room, and practice it twice a year so your family will be ready to leave quickly in case of fire.

3. Know the fire department emergency number, or program it into your phone.

4. Keep a lid and oven mitt nearby when you’re cooking to use in case of a grease fire. If you have a grease fire, slide a lid over the pan. Turn off the burner and leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.

5. Always use pot holders or oven mitts to handle hot pots and pans to avoid burns.

Furthermore they also provide these tips:

1. When you fry, grill, or broil food, stay in the kitchen.

2. Maintain a kid—and pet—free zone at least three feet away from the stove.

3. Turn pot handles away from the stove’s edge.

Schools will be observing Fire Prevention Week with a host of fun activities. Both Prairie View and Meadowlark with be having fire drills and reinforcing the importance of having drills at home. The Volunteer Fire Department will be doing a presentation at Prairie View at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 11. Meadowlark’s presentation will be in the afternoon from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m.

The local firemen are expected to bring the fire trucks down to Meadowlark for the little ones to look at, like usual. It is sure to be a fun and informative week.