Local experts: Be aware of fire safety when cooking

bpurser@macon.comOctober 8, 2012 

  • Fire safety tips

    * Practice exit drills. Designate a family meeting place outside. Call 911 from outside or a neighbor’s house. Don’t go back inside.
    * If your clothing catches on fire, stop, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands, and roll over and over.
    * When there’s smoke in a room, get low to the floor and crawl. If blinded by smoke, crawl to a wall to lead to a door.
    * Never leave the kitchen while cooking on the stove top. Regularly check the oven and use a timer. Keep children 3-feet away from cooking area.
    * Test smoke detectors monthly and batteries twice a year. A good practice: change batteries when the time changes. Replace smoke detectors every 10 years.
    * Ensure portable heaters have a tip-over safeguard and overheating protection. Heaters should be placed at least three feet away from furniture, window curtains and blinds, bedding, clothing or any other flammable item. Do not use extension cords. Keep heaters clean, dust free and away from water. Turn off and unplug unattended heaters.
    * Candles also should never be left unattended. When used, candles should be in a sturdy holder, away from combustibles, children and pets.
    * If burned, only apply cool water. Minor burns may be placed under cool running water for 20 minutes. For serious burns requiring medical treatment, burnt clothing should be removed and cool water placed on the area until medical help arrives.

    Source: Warner Robins Fire Department

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 O’Neal 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. It’s 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.

“It’s one of those things none of us like to think about,” Spurgeon said of experiencing a fire. “But it is a hazard, and it’s 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 there’s 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.

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