Fire Prevention Week is coming up — and the Charlottetown fire department is asking residents to be careful while cooking.
The week runs Oct. 4th to 10th this year, and the theme is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen.”
The majority of home fires start in the kitchen, mostly with the ignition of food or other cooking materials such as oil or grease, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
And in Prince Edward Island’s capital city, that adds up to a lot of fire calls.
“In the last year, we have had approximately 85,” said Cindy MacFadyen, a fire prevention officer with the city of Charlottetown.
Those 85 fire calls did not all involve actual flames; some were in response to smoke alarms set off when meals went wrong.
“It’s very important to have smoke alarms in your house for that very reason,” MacFadyen said.
Some tips to prevent fires starting in the kitchen:
- Don’t leave the room while cooking.
- Use a timer.
- Don’t cook while sleepy.
- Have a clear cooking area.
- Watch out for loose-fitting clothing.
- Keep a lid close to smother any small grease fires.
- Have a fire extinguisher handy.
“One of the big things we come across is big sleeves hanging over the burner,” MacFadyen said. She recommends cinching them with elastics or ties so that your clothing doesn’t catch on fire.
MacFayden said some types of cooking are riskier than others. “The open flame, the open grease pot — some people are getting back to that,” she said, adding that it is better to use a deep fryer controlled by a thermostat than a pan full of fat to cook foods such as French fries.
If a small grease fire begins, MacFayden said, place a pot over the top of the cooking vessel or use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames.
“Some people use baking soda, but the pot cover right there will control your flame,” she said.
MacFayden said a lot of restaurants have overhead fire prevention systems and are controlled a “little bit better.” In homes, she said, people can be more “carefree.”
She said she has seen entire homes lost to a fire that started in the kitchen.
No school visits or open house
On another topic, Charlottetown students won’t get the chance to check out fire trucks this year due to COVID-19.
Restrictions put in place for the pandemic means Charlottetown firefighters won’t be going into schools to talk to students or offering open houses. Instead, educational information packages will be provided to schools and community groups.
“As soon as this is over, we will be in the schools and the school can come here and get on the fire trucks and the whole bit,” she said. “I’m just hoping this will soon be over because the education these children get through fire safety — [it] is just hard to believe what they pick up and how they take it home to the parents.”
She said she has heard of children who saw a fire prevention presentation at school and went home to make sure their parents knew the basics and tested their smoke alarms. “It’s actually quite cute,” she said.
A virtual program on fire prevention is being provided to kindergartens in the city, but she said that given how busy teachers are, she doesn’t know if they will have the time to present it.