The Fire Prevention team is cooking up some excitement for Fire Prevention Week 2020, themed “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!” aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, October 4 – 10.
The goal of Fire Prevention Week is to involve people, children and adults alike, to learn how to stay safe in case of a fire.
“Firefighters provide lifesaving public education in an effort to drastically decrease casualties caused by fires,” said Michelle Bledsoe, fire prevention officer on base.
This year the focus is on preventable fires and injuries that happen while cooking in one’s kitchen or while barbequing in their yard.
“During 2014 – 2018, local fire departments responded to approximately 172,900 home cooking fires per year,” said Paul Aguilar, fire prevention officer aboard MCLB Barstow. “These fires caused an average of 550 civilian deaths; 4,820 civilian injuries; and $1.2 billion in direct property damage annually. Cooking caused almost half of the reported home fires, 49 percent, and home fire injuries, 44 percent, and one in five home fire deaths, 21 percent. Cooking was the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries and the second leading cause of home fire deaths.”
One of the things that makes cooking such a hazard is indeed the fire or hot surface itself. However, in many cases, it is human error, negligence or complacency which is the root cause of the disaster. So, it’s important for families to learn and teach proper kitchen safety etiquette.
“One common cooking related injury is caused by introducing frozen foods to hot grease or oil,” said Greg Kunkel, Emergency Medical Services chief on base. “Typically, when ice melts it turns to water then to a vapor. When frozen foods are dropped into the hot oil, it causes what is called ‘sublimation,’ which means it skips the water stage and goes straight from solid to vapor, suddenly and violently causing mini explosion. The expansion rate of the ice to gas is crazy! It expands at a factor of 1,600. So, those mini explosions the oil to pop and spray, potentially burning the cook.”
“Cooking is such a routine activity that it is easy to forget that the high temperatures used can easily start a fire,” said Nicholas Llewellyn, fire prevention officer aboard MCLB Barstow. “Sometimes people become complacent and leave items unattended. Sometimes, especially during holidays, sporting events, or other activities, it can be easy to get distracted. For example, home fires caused by cooking peak during Thanksgiving and Christmas when people may be cooking more than usual, but may also be distracted by visiting family members and friends. Always be attentive to what’s cooking and never leave any items on the stove or oven unattended.”
“Firefighters provide lifesaving public education in an effort to drastically decrease casualties caused by fires.” Michelle Bledsoe, base fire prevention officer
The type of clothing worn while cooking can also make the difference between slight discomfort, versus a full on 3rd degree burn.
“Be careful not to wear long, loosely fitting sleeves, for instance, which can catch fire over an open flame,” Kunkel warned. “Also be diligent when young children are around the kitchen. Keep children at least three feet away from the cook top where food may be boiling, and they can pull those pots on themselves causing severe burns. This is also why it is a good habit to turn the pot and pan handles away from the edge of the cooktop, so kids don’t have something to grab onto.”
They stress the importance of keeping other combustible materials away from the cooking surface, such as loose mail, pot holders, paper towels, and maybe even a wayward tortilla.
“Keep an ABC Fire Extinguisher in the kitchen, as well as the garage area,” Llewellyn said. “These areas have high hazards. ABC Extinguishers are all purpose extinguishers, ordinary combustibles, flammable liquids, electrical.”
It’s also important to know what to do in the event of a fire. Different fires require different responses.
“If you have a grease fire, cover the flame with a metal lid or cooking sheet,” Aguilar said. “Turn off the heat source. You can also pour baking soda on the flames to smother the fire. The last resort is a Class B Fire Extinguisher. In no instance should you use a water based extinguisher for a grease fire. Water spreads the grease fire and adds to the fuel.”
If the fire is a small one caused by a paper towel or pot holder catching fire, you can dunk the item in water safely to extinguish it. However, the experts recommend extreme caution to prevent personal injury. If you are unable to quickly and easily extinguish the flames, then they recommend that you exit the home and immediately call 911 for assistance from the local fire department.
“Some of the most common injuries during a home fire are burns and smoke inhalation,” Bledsoe said. “Some burns can be treated with an in-home first aid kit: For 1st degree burns, run cool water over affected area or immerse until pain subsides. Use a cool compress if water is not available. For 2nd degree burns, immerse in water for 10-15 minutes. Do not break any blisters if present. If there are 3rd degree burns, immediately call 911. Cover loosely with sterile non-adhesive bandage. Do not soak in water or apply any ointments or it can cause infection.”
“Since 1922, the National Fire Prevention Association has sponsored the public observance of Fire Prevention Week,” said Bledsoe. “However, it was in 1925 that President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance, making it the longest-running public health observance in our country.”
The events are held during the week of October 9 each year in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage. This massive fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 people homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.
To learn more about research at NFPA, visit http://nfpa.org/research and fpw.org.