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Keep an eye on the stove to prevent kitchen fires

Fire Prevention Week seeks to provide tips on staying safe in the kitchen

It might be surprising to some people to realize unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires in the kitchen.

The theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 4–10), Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen, aims to educate people about how they can keep themselves safer in the kitchen.

Simple tricks such as using a timer, wearing an oven mitt or having a fire extinguisher nearby can help prevent a fire.

“There are a lot of fires that occur when you turn your back when you’re cooking,” 100 Mile House Fire Rescue Chief Roger Hollander said. “It can happen easily. People get distracted when they get a phone call or the kids are screaming … it only takes a few seconds for something to over boil or something to burn in the oven. It’s a matter of being diligent and taking cooking seriously because it can happen very quickly.”

Since 1922, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has sponsored Fire Prevention Week. In B.C. local fire departments have typically held a variety of events to raise awareness of fire safety and prevention. Most of these have been cancelled this year because of COVID-19 but South Cariboo volunteer fire departments encourage all residents to embrace the 2020 Fire Prevention Week theme.

The following safety tips provide a perfect recipe to prevent cooking fire:

• Never leave cooking food unattended. Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you have to leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove.

• If simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly. Remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.

• Remain alert when cooking. You won’t be alert if you are sleepy, have taken medicine or drugs, or have consumed alcohol that makes you drowsy.

• Always keep an oven mitt and pan lid nearby when cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan to smother the flame. Turn off the burner, and leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.

• Have a “kid-free zone” of at least one metre around the stove and any areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

“With Thanksgiving approaching, many families are preparing meals while socializing and entertaining,” said John Grieve, Chief of the Lone Butte Volunteer Fire Department. “Don’t become too distracted from what’s cooking in the kitchen. All of us here at LBFD wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and stay safe!”

Hollander added residents should also take care to ensure there are no combustibles on the counter or near the stove elements and to call 911 early in the event of a fire. This is particularly important in rural areas, he said, where firefighters have to come from work or the hall. Getting in apparatus can take valuable time, he said, while a fire doubles every few minutes.

“Time is our enemy when it comes to fire,” he said, noting calls can be cancelled if they aren’t needed after all. “We don’t mind, that’s what we signed up for.”

Bob Campbell, Chief of the Hawkins Lake Volunteer Fire Dept. also reminds residents to check their smoke and CO detectors. “If you don’t have them, please get them, they work,” he said. “It’s not a bad idea to have a couple of small fire extinguishers on hand for the house and shop. If you heat with wood, get the chimney cleaned, keep the wood stacked, dried and covered from the rain and snow. These things help prevent chimney fires. Enjoy fall in the Cariboo and stay safe.”

Chris Haddad, Chief of 108 Mile Ranch Volunteer Fire Department also suggests “one of the best safety investments you can make in your home is to Firesmart it. Clear brush away from your home, clean needles and leaves from your roof and gutter and remove low branches off of trees to prevent them from becoming ladder fuel.”

Interlakes Volunteer Fire Chief Eric de Vries agrees residents should regularly test their smoke alarms and also suggests storing firewood a proper distance from any ignition source. Terry Murphy, Fire Chief of the Lac La Hache Volunteer Fire Department added residents should ensure driveways are cleared so emergency vehicles will be able to access their homes year-round.

“Keeping road access to your home clear in case of emergency can literally be a matter of life and death,” Murphy said.

This year the Province is running poster and video contests open to students in all grades around B.C. Poster artwork may be drawn on any Fire Prevention Week subject (including burn and scald prevention, fire prevention, fire escape planning, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide safety, etc.) and submitted by mail or email.

Prizes are being awarded in three age categories (Kindergarten to Grade 3, Grades 4 to 6, and Grades 7 to 12) in zones throughout the province. Submissions must be received by Oct. 23 and can be mailed to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, 3891 Main Street, Vancouver, B.C. V5V 3P1, or emailed to

Students can also create videos (maximum three minutes in length) that contain a strong Fire Prevention Week message on a topic of their choosing. All styles of video will be accepted: drama, comedy, documentary, music video, stop-motion, claymation, or animation. There are two grade categories: Kindergarten to Grade 6 and Grades 7 to 12. Submissions must be posted on YouTube, with a link sent via email to no later than Oct. 23.

For more information about both contests, go to For more general information about Fire Prevention Week and cooking fire prevention, visit

Photos. Missing: Greeny Lake, Deka Lake and Clinton Volunteer Fire Departments