FORT LEE, Va. (Feb. 7, 2013) -- Unattended cooking can have disastrous effects and should be avoided. The recent fire here that resulted in the deaths of two individuals underscores the importance of staying vigilant in the kitchen. The National Fire Protection Association and Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services urges everyone to use caution while cooking,

In 2010, cooking was involved in an estimated 156,400 home structure fires that were reported to U.S. fire departments, according to the NFPA. These fires caused 420 deaths, 5,310 injuries and $993 million in direct property damage. Cooking caused 44 percent of reported home fires, 16 percent of home fire deaths, 40 percent of home fire injuries, and 15 percent of the direct property damage in 2010.

Facts and figures

Based on 2006-2010 annual averages:

• Unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in these fires.

• Two-thirds of home cooking fires started with the ignition of food or other cooking materials.

• Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1 percent of these fires, but these incidents accounted for 16 percent of the cooking fire deaths.

• Ranges accounted for the largest share (58 percent) of home cooking fire incidents. Ovens accounted for 16 percent.

• Three out of every five reported non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occurred when the victims tried to fight the fire themselves.

• Frying poses the greatest risk of fire. and Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires.

Stay alert

To prevent cooking fires, you must be alert. You will not be alert if you are sleepy, have consumed alcohol, or have taken medicine or drugs that make you drowsy.

Watch what you heat

Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that an item has finished cooking and needs to e removed from the heat.

Keep flammable items away from heat sources

Keep anything that can catch fire – oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, curtains – away from your stove top.

Keep the stove top, burners and oven clean. Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and can catch fire if it comes in contact with a gas flame or an electric burner.

What to do in case of a cooking fire

Always keep a lid nearby when you are cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. To keep the fire from restarting, leave the lid on until the pan is completely cool. Never pour water on a cooking pan grease fire. Never discharge a portable fire extinguisher directly into a cooking pan grease fire because it will spread the flames.

In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed until it is cool. After a fire, the oven should be checked and/or serviced before being used again. When in doubt, just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. After you leave, call 9-1-1 or 734-7400 from a cell phone or a neighbor’s telephone.

If you know how to use a portable fire extinguisher and decide to fight the fire, be sure others are already getting out and that you have a clear path to the way out.

Keep children, pets away from cooking areas

Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried. Never hold a child while you are cooking, drinking a hot liquid, or carrying hot foods or liquids. Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.

Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services actively promotes fire safety to all who work, live and visit Fort Lee.

For questions or assistance, contact the Fire Prevention Office at (804) 734-6597.