Community Content: Recipe for fire safety starts in kitchen

Preston Moore
Whitehall Division of Fire

If you're an American of Polish ancestry (my wife included), an author or seller of ​cookbooks or a country-music artist, then October is the month for you.

That's because October is Polish American Heritage Month, National Cookbook Month and Country Music Month, just to name a few.

Preston Moore

But on a more serious note, October also is the national fire-prevention month and includes the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Prevention Week.

With this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme being “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen,” the Whitehall Division of Fire is hoping to help you find the right recipe for fire safety as we all cook at home more during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

But before we get to our fire-safety tips, I want to dive into some of the interesting history behind Fire Prevention Week.

Fire Prevention Week is the longest-running public-health observance in the United States.

Established in 1922 and made a national observance in 1925 by President Calvin Coolidge, Fire Prevention Week was slated for October by the NFPA in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

If you’ve never heard the tale, legend has it the Great Chicago Fire started on the evening of Oct. 8 after Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern in the family barn.

The fire raged on for two days, claiming more than 250 lives and destroying more than 17,400 structures. Adding fuel to the fire, the damages were made worse by drought conditions, windy weather and a proliferation of wooden buildings and structures along the fire’s path, which stretched more than four miles long by a mile wide.

While Mrs. O’Leary and her cow eventually were exonerated by Chicago City Council more than 125 years after the Great Chicago Fire, the lessons learned from the tall tale hold true today: a small, single act of carelessness when working with fire can have grim repercussions.

This is why observances like Fire Prevention Week are necessary to remind us all of the importance of practicing fire safety, and this year, our focus is promoting fire safety in our kitchens.

According to the NFPA, cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home-fire injuries in the United States, and unattended cooking is the largest contributing factor. But together we can find a new recipe for fire safety in the kitchen.

Practice these tips to "Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen" at home:

• Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, boiling, grilling or broiling food.

• If you are simmering, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and stay in your home.

• Always keep a lid nearby when cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Leave the pan covered until it is cool.

• Keep anything that can catch fire away from your stovetop.

• Loose clothing can hang down onto stove burners and catch fire. Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.

• Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

By following these tips, we can have our fall feasts and be safe while enjoying food with our families.

For more tips and information on Fire Prevention Week, go to the city's website at whitehall-oh.us or the NFPA website at nfpa.org.

Preston Moore is chief of the Whitehall Division of Fire.