Fire and Rescue NSW winter campaign highlights kitchen fire safety

MESSAGE: Fire and Rescue NSW Cessnock station commander Neil Lawler says fire safety education is extremely important because it actually saves lives. Picture: Chelsea Harrison
MESSAGE: Fire and Rescue NSW Cessnock station commander Neil Lawler says fire safety education is extremely important because it actually saves lives. Picture: Chelsea Harrison

Kitchen fires are the leading cause of house fires in NSW, with 45 percent of residential structure fires originating from the kitchen.

Fire and Rescue NSW’s 2017 winter campaign, Keep Looking When Cooking, aims to reduce the number of kitchen catastrophes across the state.

In 2016, Fire and Rescue NSW recorded 46 residential fires in Cessnock with the contributing cause being an unattended flame or heat source.

Cessnock station commander Neil Lawler says there are more house fires in winter than in summer, especially in the kitchen because of cooking and heating.

Mr Lawler said the campaign initiative is to get the message out there that if you’re in the kitchen cooking, stay looking.

The campaign also seeks to avoid burn injuries from occurring and preventing incidents by implementing a safety checklist for home cooks.

Besides maintaining a watchful eye, having a working smoke alarm, keeping matches and lighters out of reach of children and storing flammable items away from heat can be life-saving.

Mr Lawler said there is a common mistake made by people when reacting to fires in the home.

“A lot of the fire-related injuries involve residents being unaware of the correct procedures regarding the extinguishment of kitchen fires,” he said.

He said incidents like putting out an oil-based fire with water can make the oil spread and make matters worse.

The appropriate action is to cover the fire with either a saucepan lid or fire blanket, which will limit the oxygen supply to the flame and the fire will be extinguished.

Mr Lawler admits that he and his team are not as busy as they used to be in the past, with the implementation of education programs about fire safety.

The firefighters at Cessnock Fire Station carry out home fire safety checks and can help install fire alarms (which are required by law).

“Most of the community is unaware that we offer these kinds of services but we would like to get the word out that we are here to help,” Mr Lawler said.

“Fire safety education is extremely important because it actually saves lives.”

Fire and Rescue NSW has its own mini-magazine, named after the campaign that features safe cooking methods directly from firefighters.

Members of the community have also been encouraged to submit their own safe cooking methods, via social media, using the #KeepLookingWhenCooking hashtag.

For more information, head to www.fire.nsw.gov.au.

FIRE AND RESCUE NSW’S SAFETY CHECKLIST FOR HOME COOKS

  • Never leave cooking unattended. If you leave the kitchen, turn off the stove.
  • It takes just three minutes for a fire to take hold, but only seconds to prevent one.
  • Don’t put anything metallic in the microwave.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
  • Store flammable items (aerosols, cleaning agents and cooking oil etc) away from heat.
  • Don’t cook under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Keep loose clothing, fabrics, tea towels and curtains away from the stove.
  • Turn pot handles inwards to avoid being knocked or grabbed by children.
  • Keep your oven and rangehood clean. Excess grease and fat can ignite in a fire.
  • Don’t use LPG cylinders for cooking or heating indoors.
  • Never overload power points or power boards in the kitchen.
  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm.

And, if your pan catches fire, remember:

  • Never use water to put out a fat or oil fire
  • Turn off the stove and use the lid to cover the flame
  • Get out, stay out and call Triple Zero ‘000’
AWARENESS: Cessnock firefighters Jamie Chapple and Ben Allen with a poster promoting the theme of this year's open day back in May. Picture: Krystal Sellars

AWARENESS: Cessnock firefighters Jamie Chapple and Ben Allen with a poster promoting the theme of this year's open day back in May. Picture: Krystal Sellars

KITCHEN FIRE STATISTICS

  • In 2016, kitchen fires represented 45% of all residential fires and 34% of injuries in NSW, with a flame or heat source being left “unattended” being the most common contributing cause.
  • This makes kitchen fires the largest single cause of house fires in NSW.
  • On average, FRNSW firefighters respond to around 3,865 house fires a year. 
  • There are on average 21 house fire fatalities each year and around 502 people injured.
  • Since the beginning of 2017, at least 53 people have been injured in kitchen fires alone.
  • It can take just three minutes for a fire to take hold, but only seconds to prevent one.