News: Watch what you heat: fire safety
Story by Cpl. Sarah Cherry
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. - Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Structural Fire Department taught kitchen fire prevention safety to students at schools aboard Laurel Bay as part of National Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6-12.
National Fire Prevention Week is held in remembrance of the Great Chicago Fire, which happened Oct. 8 - 9, 1871. The fire killed more than 250 people and destroyed over 17 thousand buildings, inspiring fire safety codes and public awareness throughout the U.S. In remembrance of the people killed and damage caused by the fire, prevention is taught every October to help avoid another similar fire in the future.
“This year’s theme is preventing kitchen fires,” said Joseph Otterbine, lead fire inspector for Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Fire and Emergency Services. “Believe it or not, it’s one of the main causes of residential house fires in the United States.”
Students at Laurel Bay schools learned about kitchen rules, how to avoid burns, and what to do if they get burned. Teaching kids reaches a bit further when they bring home what they learn to their parents.
“[National Fire Prevention Week is] to educate everybody, not just children, on all levels of fire prevention,” said Otterbine. “It’s all about education, prevention and preparation.”
In 2011, cooking was involved in an estimated 156,300 house fires causing 470 deaths. From 2006 to 2010, about 2,920 fires involving kitchen equipment caused in an annual average of $75 million in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Prevention Association website.
“The number one cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking,” said Otterbine. “People walk away from the stove leaving something cooking, get distracted and forget, and it’s caught fire.”
Some key prevention tips are to never leave cooking unattended, keep paper products, clothing and kitchen towels away from the stove and oven, and don’t store combustibles or flammables over the stove.
“You’d be surprised what people store in that cabinet above the stove. Some people use it as a liquor cabinet, or they store shortening, oils and grease. So what happens when a fire goes up? Now, that’s fuel to add to the fire,” said Otterbine.
If there are children in the kitchen area, extra safety rules apply. Keep them three feet away from the stove, turn pot handles in, and children using hot objects and microwaves should be supervised. Any hot items a child is handling should be at or below their eye level.
“Teach these children so that they understand how fire safety works and the importance of following the rules,” said Otterbine. “If for any reason you have any questions, come by the fire station and ask the firemen. We’re here to help prevent fires.”