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Spate of kitchen fires prompts warning for Christmas cooking

Published: 22nd December 2006

A spate of kitchen fires this month has prompted the NSW Fire Brigades (NSWFB) to issue a pre-Christmas warning about the dangers of leaving cooking unattended.

NSWFB Commissioner Greg Mullins said with more people in the home and cooking over the Christmas period it was timely to remind families that almost half of all home fires start in the kitchen.

“Over a four day period recently, the NSWFB was called to 28 separate kitchen fires across NSW which resulted in several people suffering injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to burns.

“Food left on the stove unattended or catching alight were the most common reasons for these fires.

“If the phone rings or there’s someone at the door it’s easy to become distracted, so the best thing to do is to turn off the hotplate if you need to leave the room. Once you’ve finished cooking always ensure cooking appliances have been switched off.

“Fires can start in microwaves, on stove tops, in ovens and rangehoods, so it’s important to keep them clean and prevent any build up of fat and grease. It is also important to wait until elements or hot plates cool down before cleaning them and be sure not to use alcohol-based products on hot plates.”

Commissioner Mullins said Christmas was a time to spend with family and friends but people should remain alert to the dangers of fire in the kitchen.

“Leaving pots to boil dry, letting oil overheat and catch fire, and forgetting about food in the oven can result in a fire in the home. Nobody can afford to be complacent when cooking.

“If a kitchen fire occurs and you aren’t confident you can put it out, switch off the appliance, leave, and call the NSWFB on 000 from a safe phone. “

In 2005/06, 47% of all home fires started in the kitchen. The NSWFB attended 4,653 home fires with 2,174 starting in the kitchen. Half of these kitchen fires, or 1,090, resulted from cooking being left unattended. Other factors included mechanical failure and appliances being accidentally turned on or not switched off.

All households are now required to have a working smoke alarm and there should also be an escape plan that everybody knows and has rehearsed. Other safety measures which should be considered for the kitchen include a fire extinguisher and fire blanket and, for families with children, a stove guard.

Kitchen fire safety fact sheets can be obtained from NSWFB fire stations or downloaded from the NSWFB website at www.fire.nsw.gov.au

Media contact: Natalie Laharnar 02 9265 2802