Kitchen fires are leading cause of home fires

Tillsonburg Fire and Rescue Services firefighters, from left, Dean Townsend, Peter Neusteter and Bruce Hietkamp hand out Fire Prevention Week material Thursday night in Tillsonburg. (Chris Abbott/Norfolk & Tillsonburg News) jpg, TN

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Tillsonburg Fire and Rescue Services reached out to the community Thursday night to help people ‘Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen.’

“Tonight we’re out in front of some local businesses handing out some pamphlets, stuff for the kids, and information on Cooking Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen this year,” said Tillsonburg firefighter Chris Coldham, stationed for two hours in front of Canadian Tire with firefighters Greg Walton and Jarrett Parker.

“Answering any questions that people have about smoke alarms or CO alarms, anything like that,” said Parker. “Pretty much any questions fire-related, we’re here to answer.”

“Kitchen fires, that is still the No. 1 cause of house fires or apartment fires in Ontario,” said Platoon Chief Larry Staley, with reserve firefighter Andrea Klassen in front of Metro. “We’re just out here to give assistance if needed and to get awareness out to the public.”

To ‘serve up fire safety in the kitchen’ the fire service recommends always staying in the kitchen when cooking and turning the stove off when you leave the kitchen.

“One thing with cooking, you never want to leave anything unattended,” said Walton.

“And watch for clutter around your stove,” he added, reminding people to keep anything that burns – plastic utensils, dishcloths, paper towels – a safe distance from the stove.

“Often when we’re called to a fire that started in the kitchen, the residents tell us they only left the kitchen for a few minutes,” said Tillsonburg Fire Chief Brad Lemaich, noting people can be distracted by phone calls, get lost in various social media accounts or watching online videos, and forget what is going on in the kitchen. “Often that’s all it takes for a dangerous fire to start,” said Lemaich, recalling a fire caused by someone distracted by video games while making french fries.

“With COVID-19… we have seen an upturn in incidents in the home, just based on the fact that more people are working from home, studying from home.”

“Staying in the kitchen while cooking, using a timer, and avoiding distractions such as electronics or TV are steps everyone can take to keep families safe in their homes,” said Fire Prevention Inspector Jadie Scaman.

“Have a lid nearby, always,” said Coldham.

If a pot of oil catches fire, slide the lid over the pot and turn off the stove. Do not move the pot.

“Never put water on a grease fire,” Parker noted.

Lemaich also reminded people to stay alert while cooking, saying people should refrain from alcohol and recreational drug use while cooking.

Wear tight-fitting or rolled up sleeves when using the stove. Loose, dangling clothing can easily catch fire.

Also keep young children one metre away from the stove. Turn pot handles away from the stove’s edge so they can’t be easily knocked off.

“Have a parent present if kids are cooking,” said Parker.

If you burn yourself while cooking, run cool water over the wound for 3-5 minutes. If the burn is severe, seek medical attention.

“For smoke alarms, it’s important to change the batteries twice a year,” said Klassen. “Also to clean them – give them a dusting twice a year. Also remember, they need to be replaced every 10 years or so. For CO alarms, that’s 7-10 years depending on manufacturer recommendations.”

“And test your smoke alarms once a month,” said Coldham.

“At any time, if anybody has questions, you don’t have to wait until Fire Prevention Week or to see us in public,” said Lemaich. “We run regular town office business hours here every week (80 Concession Street East), we are here to answer questions (519-688-3009 ext. 4910), provide information, provide assistance with any fire safety related concerns.”

For online information about Fire Prevention Week and cooking fire prevention, visit