An Oxfordshire firefighter is encouraging safety in the kitchen after witnessing a 'devastating' domestic cooking fire as part of a campaign launched today (Thursday, November 8).
Ellis Bicknell, watch manager at Kidlington Fire Station, is promoting the two-week Cook Safe campaign, taking place across the county over the next fortnight.
The campaign will remind householders of the devastating impact of kitchen fires - the material and human damage can be lifelong and life-changing.
Ellis said: “Having recently attended a serious house fire, I know from experience that no one would want to accidently set their kitchen alight. The consequences are terrible.
“When I approached the kitchen door, there was a small amount of smoke; nothing to worry about, or so I thought.
“Entering the kitchen, I saw flames in and around the cooker, leaping up to the ceiling. The back door was open, so most of the smoke was escaping.
"The downside; more oxygen was being sucked into the fire from outside, increasing its ferocity. This was a serious situation.
“We immediately retreated and I instructed two of my crew to don breathing apparatus. It took them a few minutes to get the fire under control, using the high-pressure hose reel from the fire appliance.
“Once the fire was out, we used a positive pressure fan to force out the remaining smoke through windows, room by room.
"Walls were blackened throughout the building, not just in the kitchen.
“Once safe, I took the owner back into the property and had a good discussion about how the fire started and how he could prevent it happening again.
“The fire was caused by a build-up of food products and oils catching light. The owner said, ‘I’d been meaning to clean that’.
“He also had no battery in his smoke alarm. If he had, it would have given him a much earlier warning to get out and dial 999. Seconds can make all the difference in a fire.
“The devastation caused by kitchen and house fires like this can be far reaching. Damage to the home and possible injury.
"We want everyone to live safe and healthy lives. Please take care when cooking to avoid unnecessary accidents.”
Cooking fires account for nearly 20 per cent of accidental blazes in Oxfordshire homes. There are many causes of kitchen fires, but one of the biggest factors is distraction.
Chris Barber, home and community safety manager at Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service, explains: “We all know how easy it is to get distracted by the phone ringing, the doorbell going, kids running around, or a TV programme catching your attention.
“Whatever the reason, any distraction, even if it’s momentarily, can be disastrous. That is the message we want people thinking about during this year’s Cook Safe.”
The campaign’s safety tips include turning the oven or hobs down – or off – if leaving cooking unattended, and setting a timer as a reminder to return and check how food’s progressing. Keeping the cooker clean of oil and grease also reduces the risk of fire.
Do not cook if under the influence of alcohol as it lowers concentration levels. The risk of accidents in the kitchen is greater if a person has been drinking.
In Oxfordshire, 70 out of 345 accidental dwelling blazes were cooking fires in the past year.
Chris said: “House fires can spread rapidly and have a devastating impact on householders.
“Most cooking fires are preventable. The fire that Ellis attended is a good example; a ten-minute cooker cleaning job being put off now means the home owner needs a whole new kitchen!
“We hope by making people aware of the causes and encouraging them to follow simple and straightforward safety advice, there will be less kitchen fires in coming years.”
For further information on fire prevention visit www.365alive.co.uk/cooking