Campaign launched to curb cooking fires

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Firefighters are urging people to stop leaving their cooking unattended in a bid to crack down on house fires across the county.

New figures, released by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, show that half of all house fires across South Yorkshire last year started in the kitchen.

An even deeper look into the issue, fire officers say, shows that the majority of these fires could be prevented and start when people leave pans on the hob or food in the oven.

The service is now appealing to people across Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster to ‘stand by your pan’ to avoid a kitchen fire disaster.

As part of the campaign, officers are also asking people not to cook after consuming alcohol and, instead, get a takeaway.

“Public awareness and safety around house fires has increased dramatically in recent years but one bad habit we haven’t quite kicked, yet, is leaving cooking unattended,” said Group Manager Matt Gillatt, deputy head of the joint police and fire community safety team.

“Pretty much every kitchen fire we attend originates from an oven or hob and, generally, the fires have started because something has been left on.

“Examples range from a cooker being left to pre-heat to somebody falling asleep whilst their food is cooking and, whilst we know it’s not usually intentional, fire happens fast.

“We don’t expect people to stare at their food whilst it cooks and clearly pre-heating an oven is fairly standard, this isn’t an issue.

“What’s an issue is where people leave the kitchen entirely and either forget that the cooker is on or get distracted with something else, such as the TV or having a quick shower.

“What’s also an issue is where people get in the kitchen and start cooking having had something to drink – this is never a good idea and often ends up in the worst kind of fires.”

The service’s new campaign comes off-the-back of a smoke alarm push in which firefighters urged people to ensure they have working smoke alarms on every level of their home.

It’s based on figures that show there were 230 cooking fires, across South Yorkshire, in 2020 – making up 47 percent of the 491 house blazes attended by firefighters last year.

“Our message is really clear – don’t leave cooking unattended and don’t cook drunk. This isn’t just about reducing pressure on us, it’s about keeping yourself safe,” added Matt.

“What people often don’t realise is that getting hurt is just one risk when it comes to kitchen fires – very often you can escape harm but be left with a huge bill for redecorating.”

More information on cooking fire safety, and details of how to book a free fire service home safety visit, can be found on the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue website. You can also find some useful advice about chip pan fire on the Fire Service website.