A family get-together can quickly turn into tragedy if someone forgets the turkey in the oven or leaves the gravy cooking unattended, Prince George’s County fire/EMS officials said, so this year’s Fire Prevention Month — October — is focused on the most common home fires: ones that start in the kitchen.
The county’s fire/EMS department will be holding open houses and visiting as many elementary schools as possible across the county to teach residents about proper fire safety and the dangers of kitchen fires, more specifically unattended cooking fires, department spokesman Mark Brady said.
Unattended cooking fires are the most common type of fire. Brady said it’s not unheard of for firefighters to respond to cooking-related fires four to six times per day. In 2012, 40,344 of the 135,383 calls the department received were for fire suppression, according to county fire department data, and kitchen fires make up 42 percent of all reported home fires, according to a 2012 report by the National Fire Protection Association.
Brady did not have a breakdown of how many of the county’s fires were kitchen-related.
Overloaded outlets and candles also cause high amounts of home fires, Brady said.
“If we could somehow eliminate those top three causes, we would be doing real good,” Brady said.
The National Fire Protection Association sets the theme for each year to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, which occurred Oct. 8 and burned through the night Oct. 9, said Lorraine Carli, association spokesperson. This year’s Fire Prevention Week will occur from Oct. 6 to 12, when the association will hold events and spread information on cooking fire dangers, Carli said. The association sets their time as a week, but fire departments use the whole month of October to spread fire prevention safety tips because it gives them more time to educate residents, Carli said
The educational activities offered during Fire Prevention Month not only helps prevent fires but it also helps prepare people for fires, like a woman and daughter who managed to get out of a burning Glenarden home because the family made an escape plan after firefighters visited the girl’s school, Brady said. Unfortunately, four family members were killed, Brady said. Events like that February house fire underscore why the department focuses on elementary schools because children seem to remember the training and will take it home to their families, Brady said .
Capitol Heights resident Belinda Queen-Howard said she appreciates the department’s efforts since fire prevention is especially important during the holidays when most family-orientated, large-scale cooking occurs. The lessons firefighters preach might seem repetitive but they are necessary, she said.
“It is very important to educate people that the little mistakes we make can lead to big mistakes,” Queen-Howard said.