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March 2, 2011

Forty percent of home fires caused by cooking
OSFM urges household chefs to stay in kitchen when cooking

CHICAGO – Many home structure fires occur when cooking equipment is left unattended, according to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM). For the family chef, fire prevention can be as simple as remaining in the kitchen with a watchful eye on the stove, broiler, grill or deep fryer.

“A small kitchen fire could easily engulf other combustibles in the area,” said Larry Matkaitis, Illinois State Fire Marshal. “It may only take a few seconds to extinguish, but if your attention is elsewhere, precious time is lost and a once-manageable fire might be completely out of control.”

On average, cooking fires account for 40 percent of the home structure fires with unattended cooking as the leading contributing factor. Cooking also accounts for more than a third of home fire injuries, with six in 10 of the injuries occurring during attempts to fight the fire.

To ensure that you and your meal safely arrive at the dinner table, OSFM offers these safety tips:

• Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.

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

• To prevent cooking fires, you have to be alert. You won’t be if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.

• Keep anything that can catch fire – potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, boxes, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from your stovetop.

• Keep the stovetop, burners and oven clean.
• Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.

• Wear short, close fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and can catch fire if it comes in contact with a gas flame or electric burner.

• For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher (can be used on all types of home fires) that is large enough to put out a small fire, but not so heavy as to be difficult to handle.

• If there is a fire, dial 911 and get everyone out of the building.

For more information about fire safety and prevention, please visit www.state.il.us/osfm or www.nfpa.org.


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