Last winter in NSW, fire fighters were called to 1236 residential fires, half of which were started in the household kitchen. Baby Hints & Tips spoke to Station Officer Jeremy Cohen to get his tips on avoiding a fire in the kitchen and what to do in the event of one.
With winter knocking on our door, it is the time of year for the heater to be switched on, the electric blankets have made their way out of the linen cupboard and onto the beds and we are cooking hearty winter warmer foods. So it is no wonder there is a rise in household fires in the cooler months. Fire and Rescue NSW has just launched its Winter Fire Safety campaign and this year it has a strong focus on unattended cooking, which is one of the most common causes of fires in the home.
“It can be easy to become distracted by the kids, to step away from the stove to help with the homework or it can even be tempting to leave the dinner cooking while you run a few household errands with every intention of returning shortly,” said Jeremy.
“But once the food you’re cooking reaches its ignition temperature, it catches alight and the flames can reach curtains, overhead cupboards or nearby tea towels starting a fire,” he warned.
One common mistake that is made with kitchen fires, particularly when the fire has been caused by cooking oil, is the assumption that water will extinguish the flames, however Jeremy cautions that this action can be catastrophic.
“Oil is a problem for us because people assume that like a wood fire, water will extinguish the flames, but what it does is causes a fireball. The best way to put out an oil fire is to use a fire blanket to smother the fire and stifle it by cutting off oxygen. Once you have done that, you must turn off the heat source. Another way to put out an oil fire is with a chemical extinguisher – these can be used on any fire so it’s good to have one in the house,” he said.
Another important reminder Jeremy shared with Baby Hints & Tips is to do regular checks on your smoke detector. The batteries should be changed every 12 months and a test should be run by pushing the test button on a monthly basis to ensure that it is still functioning.
Placement of the smoke alarm is also key to saving lives. Jeremy recommends they be placed half way between the kitchen and the bedrooms as the real function of a smoke detector is to wake you should a fire start in the night.
“You will actually succumb to smoke inhalation before you get burnt by a fire so the alarm serves as a warning to wake you if a fire has started through the night.”
An important piece of advice that Jeremy shared with us is to make sure you have discussed an escape plan with your kids in the event of a fire.
“It’s important to have a conversation with your kids and tell them where the exits are and if any of your doors are deadlocked or bolted, where to find the keys if they need to escape. It’s also wise to identify a meeting place so no matter which exit your family members have used to get out of the house, you are all heading to the same spot. We recommend the letterbox as it also means when the fire department arrives, we can quickly identify if everyone has gotten safely out of the house,” said Jeremy.
But as with any major disaster, prevention is one of the most important things to practise to keep your family safe this winter, and Jeremy has given us some easy to remember hints and tips to avoid a fire in your home.
* Keep looking when cooking
* Keep everything a metre from your heater
* Don’t overload power boards with electrical equipment
* Remember to empty your lint filter in your dryer
Watch a video here from Fire and Rescue NSW to see how to handle a fire in the kitchen – imperative viewing to know what to do in an emergency!! Please watch – and please keep safe!