Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 fire that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on October 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on October 9, 1871. There are many theories as to how the fire erupted. The most popular theory is that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lamp, setting first the barn, then the entire city on fire.
Since 1922, fire prevention week is observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9th falls. Each year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) announces a Fire Prevention Week theme to help identify our nation’s most significant fire threats. This year’s theme, “Cooking safety starts with YOU! Pay attention to fire prevention”, brings to light one of the most common fire related incidents that plague communities today, cooking fires in the home.
According to the United States Fire Administration, cooking is the leading cause of home fire and home fire injuries. “In 2021, fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated 170,000 home cooking fires. These fires caused an estimated 135 deaths, 3,000 injuries and over $494 million in property loss,” (www.usfa.fema.gov). Current Columbus Fire Department 2023 fire incident data shows that 20% of Columbus fire incidents have been attributed to cooking.
The National Fire Prevention Association shares these helpful fire prevention tips to prevent the occurrence of cooking fires cooking fire injuries in the home:
- Always keep a close eye on what you’re cooking. For foods with longer cook times, such as those that are simmering or baking, set a timer to help monitor them carefully.
- Clear the cooking area of combustible items and keep anything that can burn, such as dish towels, oven mitts, food packaging, and paper towels.
- Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove. Keep a lid nearby when cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner.
- Create a “kid and pet free zone” of at least three feet (one meter) around the cooking area and anywhere else hot food or drink is prepared or carried.
While safe practices and active fire prevention are the best measures to avoid a residential fire, the Columbus Fire Department also recommends that every home have working smoke alarms. Every home should also develop and practice a residential fire escape plan. If you and your family need assistance with home fire escape planning or are in need of working smoke alarms, please contact the Columbus Fire Department at (812) 376-2679.