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Grease, oil ignitions cause majority of home fire deaths PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, October 05, 2013 12:47 AM


Staff Writer

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DELPHOS — October 6-12 is Fire Prevention Week and this year The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has chosen to focus and educate the general public on kitchen fire prevention.

In 2012, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,375,000 fires which resulted in 2,380 civilian fire deaths — equating to one civilian fire death every 3 hours and 4 minutes.

Two-thirds of home fires involving cooking equipment began with the ignition of cooking materials such as fat, grease, cooking oil and related substances, which were first ignited in one-half of the home cooking fires. Seventy-two percent of the civilian deaths and 77 percent of the injuries associated with cooking material or food ignitions resulted from fat, grease or cooking oil fires.


Delphos Fire Department Platoon Chief Don Moreo said that since the beginning of the year, the department has responded to 195 fire incidents, one of which was attributed to unattended cooking.


“Food cooking in a dry skillet ignited,” Moreo described the scene. “Although there was not a lot of fire damage, the amount of smoke in the kitchen and throughout the house caused a large amount of cleanup costs.”

Moreo said there have been no injuries or deaths associated with any fires.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC’s) study of range fires shows that frying foods tops the list of cooking material ignitions and accounts for 63 percent of the 218 reported range top cooking material ignitions. Eighty-three percent of the food ignitions by frying occurred during the first 15 minutes of cooking.

“Grease fires will ignite when left unattended,” Moreo detailed. “The temperature of the oil heats up and turns into vapor. The vapor reaches its ignition point, flashes and ignites.”

Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1 percent of these fires but clothing ignitions led to 16 percent of the home cooking equipment fire deaths. When cooking, it is important to wear short, close-fitting, or tightly-rolled sleeves. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and can catch fire if it comes in contact with a gas flame or electric burner.

It is also important to keep the cooking area clean and free of combustible materials. Built-up grease can catch fire in the oven or on the stove top. Wrappers and other materials on or near the stove may also catch fire.

Unattended equipment was a factor in 34 percent of reported home cooking fires. An additional 10 percent occurred when something that could catch fire was too close to the cooking equipment and another 8 percent occurred when the cooking equipment was unintentionally turned on or not turned off.

The majority of reported cooking fires were small and confined to a single room; however, 10 percent of the cooking fire deaths and 41 percent of the cooking fire injuries resulted from these small fires.

Ranges were the equipment involved in three of every five reported home fires, 87 percent of the cooking fire deaths and 76 percent of the reported cooking fire civilian injuries. Households that use electric ranges have a higher risk of cooking fires and associated losses than those using gas ranges.

“I’ve been on the department since 1985 and only once was there a fire started by a faulty stove,” Moreo explained.

Home fires involving cooking on peak dates that are major U.S. holidays with traditions of cooking, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Christmas Eve. Thanksgiving had three times the average number of reported home structure fires involving cooking equipment.

In 2011, the NFPA reported that unattended kitchen fires moved up to the second leading cause of home fire deaths.

“Most cooking fires are due to human error; falling asleep, unattended or just plain forgetting something was on the stove,” Moreo stated.

In 2010, cooking caused 44 percent of reported home fires, 16 percent of home fire deaths and 40 percent of home fire injuries.

Moreo said the best way to extinguish a grease fire — if it can be safely done — is to turn off the burner and slide a lid over the fire. This takes away the heat source and oxygen and will suffocate the fire.

“Do not ever throw water on a grease fire!” Moreo said adamantly. “Always call the Fire Department because it is better to have us on the way and not to be needed than to lose a life or an entire home.”

Chief Moreo’s Kitchen Fire Prevention advice: Do not leave the stove unattended and when finished cooking be sure to turn off the stove and remove the pan/pot from the burner used

“Remember, all you can save by not having a cooking fire; your life, your family’s life and your home,” Moreo reasoned.

Last Updated on Saturday, October 05, 2013 1:02 AM

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