A small kitchen fire can turn devastating in minutes -- a fact Orange Township firefighters proved during a live demonstration Friday, Oct. 5.
Firefighters lit and extinguished a grease fire inside a "burn house" used by safety officials for practice as part of a demonstration Oct. 5 near the Nationwide Conference Center on Green Meadows Drive in Lewis Center.
The fire burned for about seven minutes -- roughly the same amount of time it might take for firefighters to arrive on scene in a real emergency -- before it was put out with a fire hose.
Fifteen firefighters and several Delaware County EMS staff attended the demonstration to kick off National Fire Prevention Week, which runs through Saturday, Oct. 13.
Orange Township Fire Inspector David Smith said the demo highlighted one of the most common fire hazards. About one in 22 households will have a cooking fire each year, Smith said, and many people don't know how to respond in a fire emergency.
"Typically when people have a grease fire, they go into panic mode," he said. "Everyone knows you're not supposed to throw water on a fire, but that's your first instinct anyway."
Throwing water can cause burning grease to splash out of a cooking pan and spread the flames. Cooking grease ignites at around 400 degrees.
If the fire is very small and contained, Smith recommends quickly placing a steel lid over the pan and turning off the burner to suffocate the fire. Don't use a glass lid, because it could crack, and don't move the pan, because you risk spilling the boiling liquid.
But the biggest mistake people make is waiting to evacuate and to call 911, Smith said.
"When you have a fire, the No. 1 priority is to get out of the house," he said. "We can replace kitchen cabinets, but we can't replace you."
Fire officials also demonstrated a turkey-fryer fire in the front yard of the practice house. Turkey fryers are a major hazard, because putting a turkey in too quickly can cause oil to spill and ignite, and boiling oil can spill over if the fryer is too full.
"Around the holidays, people like to fry their turkeys, but if they don't get the oil measured right it can ignite and cause a lot of fire damage to people's homes and decks," said Orange Township Assistant Fire Chief Matt Noble.
For those who must deep-fry the turkey, authorities said to do it outdoors on a flat surface and well clear of garages, decks and all flammable materials.
This week, fire officials also recommend residents practice a fire evacuation plan with their families at home.
The theme of the 2012 Fire Prevention Week is "Have Two Ways Out."
"If possible, you should have two ways out of every room in your house," Smith said.
"Every family needs to have an evacuation plan, and practice is key," he said.
Area fire departments held open houses last weekend in recognition of Fire Prevention Week, where families could meet firefighters and see fire equipment and trucks up close.