WARNER ROBINS -- At least one person in the midstate -- and possibly a second Monday -- has died recently in a fire caused by unattended cooking.
Sixty-five-year-old Charlie Mae Rogers died from smoke inhalation Sept. 18 after she turned on the kitchen stove and went to lie down, Fort Valley and Peach County authorities said. The stove caught fire and spread, authorities said.
Early Monday, 23-year-old Kenyardo Breshawn ONeal died in a house fire in Laurens County that appears to have started in the kitchen area, Laurens County Fire Chief Don Bryant said. A definitive cause of the fire may be hard to determine because of the extent of the damage, but unattended cooking is a possibility, he said.
Cooking is the primary cause of residential fires with injuries, accounting for 30 percent of such fires from 2008 to 2010, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. The leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking, according to the Warner Robins Fire Department.
Bryant compared unattended cooking to distracted driving.
The doorbell rings. You end up tied up in a conversation longer than expected. Its just so easy for something to go wrong, Bryant said.
In addition to not leaving cooking unattended, Bryant also cautioned that young hands should be kept away from the stove, pot and pan handles should be turned to the side and away from the counter, and clothing, especially long sleeves, should be kept away from heat sources.
Fort Valley Public Safety Director Lawrence Spurgeon said most people, including himself, have probably walked away from the kitchen while cooking. But tragic fire deaths are a reality-check that everyone should be more vigilant about fire safety and fire preparedness.
Its one of those things none of us like to think about, Spurgeon said of experiencing a fire. But it is a hazard, and its always there.
More than 3,500 people in the U.S. die in fires each year, with more than 18,000 injuries reported annually, according to the Warner Robins Fire Department.
Children are at the highest risk of fatality, a Warner Robins fire news release stated. Over 35,000 fires started each year are done so by children. Matches and cigarette lighters should be kept away from children, and they should be taught these items are not toys.
The 2012 National Fire Prevention Week, which ends Saturday, is promoting two ways out of every room through doors or windows of the home.
Sometimes there are only seconds to escape, but theres no question that having a plan in place that has been practiced saves precious time and makes survival more likely, Ralph Hudgens, the state insurance and fire safety commissioner, stated in a news release.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.