Prevent Cooking Fires: Watch What You Heat Published Oct. 6, 2006 By Desiree Larson 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Fire Prevention Week marks the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 8, 1871. This historic blaze raged for several days and killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, and destroyed more than 17,000 buildings. Each October, the National Fire Protection Association sponsors a fire prevention campaign. The theme for this year's campaign is "Prevent Cooking Fires: Watch What You Heat." Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and injuries. Cooking equipment is involved in more than 100,000 reported home fires each year, and most of those involve the kitchen stove top. Cooking fires are normally caused by unattended cooking. With kitchen fire safety, never leave unattended food cooking on the stove top. Pay attention to your cooking. Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, broiling, or boiling food. If you must leave the room, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove. If you have young children, use the stove's back burners whenever possible. Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from the stove. A pot handle sticking out over the edge of the stove can be bumped or grabbed by a child. Prevent burns and stove top fires by turning handles in toward the center of the stove. Cooking areas should be clean and clear of combustibles such as pot holders, towels, rags, drapes and food packaging. Wear short, close fitting, or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire. Keep stoves, broilers and ovens clean of grease to reduce the chance of grease fires. Turn off all cooking appliances before going to bed or leaving the house. When cooking with grease, always keep an oven mitt, the lid to the pan or a cookie sheet handy. If a small grease fire starts, put on the oven mitt and smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid or cookie sheet over the pan and then turn off the burner. Do not remove the lid until the pan is completely cool. Do not pour water, flour or baking soda on a grease fire. This will cause the fire to spread. Use extreme caution if using a fire extinguisher on a pan fire, as it can spray or shoot burning grease around the kitchen and actually spread the fire. Never attempt to move the pan until the fire is extinguished and the pan completely cool. On oven fires, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing. Get out of the house and call the fire department. Allow food cooked in a microwave oven to cool for a minute or more before you remove it from the oven and use an oven mitt. Open microwave food slowly. Hot steam escaping from the container can cause painful burns. Let the food cool before eating. Electric stoves have a higher risk of fires, injuries and property damage than gas stoves. However, gas stoves have a higher risk of fire deaths. In 1950, many more homes cooked with gas than electricity, but by the end of the 20th century, more households cooked on electric stoves. The primary cause of fires with either kind of stove is leaving cooking unattended. Two thirds of stove fires start during the first 15 minutes of cooking. The McConnell Fire and Emergency Services Flight will host several functions throughout Fire Prevention Week. These activities include the Fifth Grade Adventure at the Sedgwick County Zoo, presentations at Wineteer Elementary School, McConnell Child Development Center and downtown day care centers. There will be a fire department open house every afternoon during Fire Prevention Week from 4-6 p.m. Come out and take a tour of the fire station and meet the firefighters. The fire department will hold a Fire Prevention Extravaganza Oct. 21 in the parking lot of Bldg. 2804, school age program building, starting at 10 a.m. Activities during this event will include a parade in military family housing, kid's games, fire truck rides and an automobile extrication demonstration. Free refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact Master Sgt. Eric Garlow at ext. 3902.