Firefighters are renewing calls for residents to take care, after a busy week attending calls to fires in domestic properties, nearly half of which occurred in the kitchen.
Last week, fire crews were called to sixteen accidental dwelling fires - seven of which were cooking related – and six where residents needed medical attention, either as a result of injuries trying to put out a fire themselves or for the affects of breathing in toxic smoke.
Since the beginning of the month, crews have attended accidental fires incidents in Folkestone, Maidstone, Gillingham, Chatham, Canterbury, Dartford, Whitfield, Margate and Hadlow.
Head of Community Safety, Lee Rose, said: “The majority were caused as a result of overheated chip pans or other pans of cooking oil, that had been left unattended, or where the occupant was temporarily pre-occupied. Crews also believe that several fires had started due to a build up of oil and grease on the cooker, while others broke out when the occupant had drifted off to sleep during cooking.
“It is only a matter of time until someone sustains life-threatening injuries as a result of a kitchen fire. However, most of these fires could easily have been prevented.”
The latest of these incidents, which resulted in a young mother being treated for burns, occurred in Folkestone yesterday (Sunday 7 September).
Unfortunately, the woman tried to extinguish a fire in a pan of oil by placing it under a tap. This caused the flames to expand and flash on to her face and arms. It is thought that the woman’s young daughter may have been playing with the cooker knobs, and accidently turned on a ring with a pan of oil on it. The woman, whose injuries are not thought to be serious, was taken to a walk-in clinic by ambulance.
Folkestone Crew Manager Heather Heath, who attended the incident, said: “Unfortunately, the woman did exactly what we warn people not to do when faced with a fire involving hot cooking oil. Fire can be very unpredictable and it is easy to underestimate the effects of fire smoke, so I would urge people to avoid tackling fires themselves. I would always advise households to get out, stay and call 999 instead.
Crew Manager Heath added: “On this occasion, it was only the smell of burning that alerted the resident, as the smoke alarms in the property didn’t sound. After crews had put out the fire they discovered that the smoke alarms had been taped over, which meant that if this fire had occurred at another time, or the lady hadn’t noticed, the situation could have been even more serious.”
This incident follows a fire in Pilgrims Spring, Folkestone, in the early hours of Saturday (6 September), when a 27-year-old man needed oxygen therapy after returning home from a night out and fell asleep on the sofa, having put a pan of oil on the hob to heat.
Another incident on Sunday (31 August) in Ramsgate resulted in a man being injured trying to tackle a chip pan fire. On this occasion the man was taken to hospital for checks, after breathing smoke and sustaining burns to his hand and forearm.
Lee Rose added: “I would urge people to switch to a safer method for preparing fried foods such as a thermostatically-controlled fryer, or perhaps opt for oven chips.
Also, it is essential that residents have working smoke alarms to provide early warning, that these are tested regularly and that you have a planned escape route in the event of a fire.”
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