The The fire department has dedicated an entire month to inform and warn residents about the dangers of kitchen fires.
Each year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) teams up with fire departments nationwide to host Fire Prevention Week during the first full week of October. The focus of this year’s campaign is kitchen fires.
New Haven’s fire safety month kick-off begins Wednesday morning on the Green, followed by an event on Oct. 12 at the Lombard Fire Station, located at 426 Lombard St., and an event on Oct. 26 at the Hill Fire Station, located at 525 Howard Ave. All three events will run from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.
“We have had quite a few [kitchen fires] this year, and we have definitely been seeing an increase of them,” said New Haven Life Safety and Compliance Officer Robert Doyle (pictured). “Since we have seen a rise and because they’re a big deal, we decided here in the city that instead of having just one week, we’re going to have a fire prevention month.”
Doyle, who has been with New Haven’s fire department for 15 years, said he has responded to at least 50 or so kitchen fires throughout his career.
“A lot of them basically stay in the actual kitchen itself, but there are times when they do spread and destroy the whole house,” said Doyle. “Kitchen fires can range from just a simple pot on the stove burning to burning the whole house down. There are many different ranges.”
The New Haven Fire Marshal’s Office in conjunction with Yale Fire Marshal will be hosting events throughout the month to teach people how to avoid kitchen fires, as well as how to react if they’re caught in one.
Doyle said inattentively leaving pots on the stove while cooking is the most common cause of the kitchen fires he’s encountered.
“We have seen a lot of inebriated people, elderly people being forgetful, younger kids talking on the phone, texting — people who just weren’t paying attention,” said Doyle. “There doesn’t seem to be a specific age group.”
Misused cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and the third leading cause of home fire deaths, according to NFPA’s Fire Analysis & Research Division. In 2006-2010, cooking equipment was involved in 42 percent of reported home fires, 15 percent of home fire deaths, 38 percent of reported home fire injuries, and 11 percent of direct property damage resulting from home fires—unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in these fires and fire deaths.
This is the first year the New Haven Fire Department has hosted fire safety events.
“Kidde donated a lot of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, so we felt that having the events would be the best way to inform and help the public,” explained Doyle.
“We hope to get as many people as we can, even if it’s just 10 people and those 10 people get the message [about kitchen fires] and spread the word,” said Doyle. “That would be great.”
There will be smoke detector giveaways, simulated fire demonstrations, raffles for fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors, informational handouts and educational coloring books, as well as refreshments. The fire marshal’s office will have its service dog on hand to demonstrate how they work together for fire rescue. A “smoke trailer” will be used to demonstrate mock fire safety scenarios.
“There’s going to be a little smoke machine that will fill the cabin up with smoke and we’ll teach them to stay calm, stay low and down toward the ground where it’s clear,” explained Doyle. “People can get an understanding of what’s expected of them when there’s a fire. That way, they won’t be too nervous in a situation where they obviously already will be.”