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City concerned over flurry of cooking fires

The City of Turlock has plenty of concerns like water usage, crime rates, economic success, and of course roads. Finding its way on to that list of concerns of late is inattentive cooks.
In the last couple of weeks the Turlock Fire Department has been kept busy by literally putting out fires, the majority of which have been ignited on stove tops and in ovens when the cook is distracted or just plain inattentive.
"We would like to urge all of residents to be safe in their homes, commented Mayor Gary Soiseth. "While we have outstanding response times by our fire department, citizens must be proactive in preventing these kinds of accidents that can cause them serious injury."
Included in this roll call of cooking fires is one from July 12, in which a home at 3040 Duquesne Way sustained extensive damage to the kitchen after food was left cooking unattended on a stove top.
The cause for concern about the recent rash of fires is real. In 2013 the National Fire Protection Association released a report that identified cooking as the leading cause of house fires. During the five-year period of 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 156,600 home structure fires in which cooking equipment was involved. Together, these fires caused an average of 400 civilian deaths, 5,080 reported civilian fire injuries, and $853 million in direct property damage per year. Overall, these incidents accounted for two of every five reported home fires and reported home fire injuries. It also accounts for 16 percent of home fire deaths, and 12 percent of the direct property damage resulting from home fires, according to the NFPA.
Ranges, with or without ovens, account for the majority (57 percent) of total reported home fires involving cooking equipment and even larger shares of related civilian deaths (86 percent) and civilian injuries (77 percent).
The same report identified unattended equipment as the leading cause of cooking fires. More than half of reported non-fatal civilian cooking fire injuries occurred when the victims were trying to fight the fire themselves.
A study published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that 75 percent of range or stove fires started with food ignitions. Forty-three percent began with cooking oil and 33 percent started with fish or meat. Sixty-three percent of the range or stove fires beginning with food occurred when someone was frying.
In an effort to keep citizens informed and safe, the City of Turlock released the following tips:
Preventing oven fires
• Be on alert. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don't use the stove, stovetop or oven.
• Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling or broiling food.
• If you are simmering, baking or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
• Keep anything that can catch fire - oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains - away from your stovetop.
If you have a cooking/oven fire:
• Just get out. When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
• Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
• If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
• Keep a lid nearby when you're cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
• For an oven fire turn off the heat and keep the door closed.