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Be firewise all year long

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The kitchen is often at the center of family life, but leave cooking unattended in the kitchen and you could have a serious fire on your hands.

Cooking equipment is involved in about 150,000 home fires per year, and many of those fires start because people aren't paying attention. And while a few minutes may not seem like much time to be away from what's cooking, that's all it takes to start a fire that could destroy your home and harm your family.

The National Fire Protection Association has chosen the theme "Prevent Kitchen Fires" for Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6-12. During that week, the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron's Fire Emergency Services personnel will be out in the community teaching young children about how kitchen fires can start, and what kids and families can do to prevent these fires from starting in the first place. By teaching kids about fire safety, we can make sure that they know just what to do in the event of a home fire, knowledge that could very well save lives.

According to the latest NFPA research, cooking is the leading cause of home fires. One out of three home fires begins in the kitchen -- more than any other place in the home. Cooking fires are also the leading cause of home fire-related injuries.

"Most often when we respond to these fires the occupants tell us they only left the room for a minute," said Burke Ferrin, Peterson assistant fire chief. "Sadly, that's all it takes for a dangerous fire to start."

Ask these questions to keep your family fire safe:

· Do you always pay attention to things that are cooking?
· Do you watch the stovetop when frying, grilling or broiling food?
· If you must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, do you turn off the stove? (The rule-of-thumb in the kitchen is, if you're cooking on the stovetop, stay in the kitchen; if you're cooking in the oven, stay in the house)
· Do you keep things that can burn, dish towels, curtains, or paper at least three feet away from the stove?
· Is the top of the stove clean? No spilled food, grease, paper or bags?
· Are pot handles turned in toward the back of the stove when cooking?
· Do children and pets stay out of the "kid-free" zone (three feet from the stove) when a grown-up is cooking?
· Are containers opened slowly after they are removed from the microwave, as hot steam escaping from the container can cause painful burns?
· Is the fire department's emergency number is near the phone? (911)
· Does your family have working smoke alarms and a home fire escape plan?

To stress the importance of kitchen safety and other fire safety matters, the base fire department will host a Fire Prevention Week Kick-Off and interactive open house at the main fire station, building 218, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 5. There will be fun, food and prizes for all. Highlights include hot dogs and drinks, fire truck bouncy house, fire safety trailer, auto extrication demonstration, fire truck displays, fire extinguisher training, coloring contest, plus Sparky, Smokey, Freddy the Fire Truck, and Pluggie will be there. Come see where and how firefighters live and work.

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