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Cooking Fires Spike During Holidays; State and Local Fire Officials Launch Safety Campaign

Cooking is the leading cause for home fires and injuries, and so State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Chief Dennis Condon, president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Massachusetts (FCAM) are urging residents to use caution while cooking in a statewide cooking fire safety public awareness campaign. This campaign has two main messages to prevent home fires: Stand by Your Pan to prevent cooking fires and Put a Lid on It to safely put grease fires out.
     “Cooking is the #1 cause of fires in Massachusetts but they spike during the winter holiday season,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey “Leaving pots and pans unattended can be a recipe for disaster. So it is important to always stay in the kitchen when cooking.”
     The Department of Fire Services has developed public services announcements (PSA’s) to educate the public on the importance of standing by your pan in the kitchen. They feature firehouse chefs from Holyoke and Methuen talking about cooking safety and sharing their favorite recipes. Lt. Maria Pel- char from Holyoke provides us with her recipe in Spanish. The PSA’s serve up two key messages on cooking safety in these television and radio spots: “Stand by Your Pan” to prevent fires and “Put a Lid on It” to put out a stovetop fire.    
     “Safety is the key ingredient in any recipe. The leading cause of fire injuries to everyone and especially to seniors is cooking,” said Chief Condon, “which is why it is important to put a lid on a stovetop fire.” He suggests keeping a pot lid or cookie sheet handy when cooking.
Important cooking safety tips:
· Stand by your pan, when cooking. Never leave food, grease or oils cooking on the stovetop unattended.
· Put a lid on it. In the case of a pan fire, slide the lid on it to smother the fire, and then turn off the heat. Do not move the pan until it has cooled off.
· Water or fire extinguishers will not work. They will only spread the fire.
· Never move a burning pan. You can be badly burned or spread the fire.
· Wear short or tight-fitting sleeves when cooking, because loose fitting clothing can easily catch on fire.
· If your clothing catches fire, Stop, Drop, Cover and Roll to put out the flames.
     According to the Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System (MFIRS), there were 9,816 residential fires in Massachusetts involving cooking in 2018, which resulted in one civilian death, 46 civilian injuries, 29 firefighter injuries and an estimated $5.4 million in property damage. Cooking is also the leading cause of injuries to older adults (people over the age of 65).
Some public housing authorities have started installing smart burners on stoves that limit the temperature burners can reach. They get hot enough to boil water but not hot enough to ignite a piece of paper. Another safety device that can be installed is an in-hood fire extinguisher. They contain an extinguishing agent in a small can installed by magnets in the hood over the stove. There are many examples of these devices putting out stove top fires in Massachusetts. The clean-up is minimal compared to a fire.
     State and local fire officials are asking the public’s help in reducing the number of cooking fires this holiday season. “We’re challenging the public to reduce cooking fires this year by remembering to stay in the kitchen when frying, boiling and broiling, and checking on baking frequently,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey.
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