National Fire Protection week is celebrated annually in the United States and Canada. The speciﬁc week is chosen to highlight the date of October 9. Whatever week starting on Sunday and ending on Saturday that includes October 9 is designated as National Fire Protection Week. This week and this date were designated in 1925 by President Calvin Coolidge in the aftermath of the great Chicago Fire of October 1871. The national eﬀort to highlight ﬁre safety, both preventively, and in case of ﬁre, has been sponsored since 1922 by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The theme varies yearly and is chosen by NFPA. Although the theme varies yearly, the goal is always consistent: equal emphasis on prevention and safety.
This year, the theme highlights cooking safety:
“Cooking safety starts with YOU.
Pay attention to ﬁre prevention.”
Home cooking is identiﬁed as the main cause of both ﬁres and ﬁre injuries in the home. Escaping a ﬁre requires an actionable plan that is both proactive and reactive. Fires move quickly and reacting rapidly saves lives.
Listed below are the safety recommendations for prevention of home cooking ﬁres:
- Cooking requires focus: Do not cook if you feel ill, are sleepy or woozy for any reason. Speciﬁcally, do not use a stove top or oven if you are not fully alert.
- Do not leave food unattended while cooking. This applies to all cooking methods: Grilling, boiling, baking, frying. Moreover, do not let food overcook or overﬂow from a pot, or turn to smoking Use a timer as a means of alerting yourself to tend to your cooking. Use a back burner whenever possible. Turn handles of pots and pans away from the front of the stove if possible.
Children & Pets
- Children and pets will not have awareness of any of the above issues. A pet jumping up to a frying pan or a child tipping over a boiling pot of water, underscore this Deﬁne an area of at least 3 feet around the stove area that is oﬀ limits for kids and pets.
- Grease ﬁres: Never throw water on a grease ﬁre. Grease ﬁres are put out by cutting oﬀ the oxygen supply (smothering the ﬁre.) Placing a lid on the pan if safe to do so, will cut oﬀ the oxygen supply and smother the ﬁre. Baking soda and salt can also be used to extinguish a grease ﬁre.
- Baking powder and ﬂour should never be used to extinguish any ﬁre.
- Keep a ﬁre extinguisher within easy access in the kitchen and know how to use
- Microwave Fires: A common cause of microwave ﬁres is food exploding in the microwave oven. Read microwave instructions for both time of cooking and microwave safety for cooking a speciﬁc If there is a microwave ﬁre, turn the microwave oﬀ immediately and keep the door to the microwave closed. Finally, do not plug a microwave into an extension cord, as this can overwhelm the circuit and cause a ﬁre. Microwaves need to be plugged directly into a wall socket.
A word about outdoor grills
- Position grills 10 feet from the house and remove ﬂammable objects near the grill. Gas leaks from the grill hose or connector can be checked by rubbing a mixture of half water and half liquid dish soap on the hose. Turn on the gas and look for bubbles forming on the hose, indicating a leak. If you find a leak, replace the hose.
If there is a ﬁre in the kitchen, or anywhere in your home, and if you feel unsafe for any reason, do not attempt to put it out. Call 911 and leave the building.
The Great Chicago Fire Inspired Fire Protection Week, a few words about this ﬁre:
The Great Chicago Fire over its three-day duration resulted in enormous damage: Approximately 250 deaths, over 100,000 homeless, destruction of approximately 17,000 buildings, and 2000 acres. The ﬁre extended over a 4 mile long by 1-mile-wide area. While this ﬁre was not the biggest ﬁre of that era or even of that week, it is the one that captured the angst and hearts of the country. There is considerable folklore as to the cause, speciﬁcally about Mrs. O’Leary’s cow knocking over a lantern in the barn. This was debunked twenty years later when the reporter who broke that story owned up to fabricating the story.
While this ﬁre is famous, what is special about this ﬁre to promote the message of ﬁre prevention and safety?
The scope of minimizing damages and maximizing public safety from ﬁre is evident from the changes made in the aftermath of the Chicago Fire. The Great Chicago Fire can be considered using the Fire Triangle. The Fire Triangle is a model employing three elements that must be present for a ﬁre to occur: Oxygen, heat, and fuel. Without all three there is no ﬁre. The Great Chicago Fire is a dramatic example, having all three elements. Wooden buildings and saw dust in the streets provided plenty of fuel; High winds provided oxygen.
Very high summer temperatures provided heat. Water which cuts oﬀ heat and fuel to a ﬁre was in short supply due to other smaller ﬁres that were burning. Fire prevention methods in the wake of this ﬁre led to laws requiring ﬁreprooﬁng building construction by using noncombustible materials. Fire breaks, created between buildings, to prevent ﬁre from jumping to adjacent buildings, were created by widening the roads. A new aqueduct was constructed after the ﬁre, and more aqueducts continued to be built. Aqueduct construction was pivotal in the development of indoor sprinkler systems.
The Chicago Fire Academy was opened on the site of the O’Leary barn in 1961. The ﬁreﬁghters of the great Chicago Fire were very short handed in terms of numbers. They were exhausted from ﬁghting other ﬁres. The nod to the plight of the ﬁreﬁghters by building an academy that would address these issues and train future ﬁreﬁghters, at the site of the Great Chicago Fire, is yet another acknowledgement of the aftermath of this ﬁre ninety years later.
Follow these helpful links to review and learn more about the “must haves” for prevention of injury and damage from home ﬁres. While these are not speciﬁc to cooking ﬁres, they are universal recommendations for ﬁre safety.
“Safety is a must not an option.”
“Cooking Safety starts with You.
Pay attention to fire prevention!”