How to keep your family safe during a cooking fire - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

How to keep your family safe during a cooking fire

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Looking up towards the ceiling brings fresh memories to Korie Poling's mind.  Standing in her now remodeled kitchen in Luckey, the mother of three remembers the day it all melted.

"I never thought it would  happen to us and now that it has, it's opened my eyes so much," says Poling.

Morgan, the oldest, was frying onion rings for an after school snack.  After thinking that she turned off the heat, the 14-year-old went upstairs to take a nap. Moments later she woke up to the screech of a wailing smoke detector, and a stove full of flames.

"I just came down here and saw all the smoke," Morgan tells 13abc. "My first instinct was to get water and put it out."

Throwing water on a fire is a common reaction, but can bring dangerous consequences if you're dealing with grease or oil.  To get that type of fire out, firefighters recommend taking a cookie sheet or a pan lid and immediately covering the flames.  Next you should turn off the heat, and then get out and call the fire department.

"What starts out as a small fire is going to become very large very quickly, it's going to become very violent," says Jamie Ferguson with the Toledo Fire & Rescue Department.

Each year home cooking fires cause more than $300 million worth of damage and claim more than a hundred lives.* Locally, the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio helps local families that go through tragedies like fires.  The organization often provides food, clothing, temporary shelter and needed medication to families that suddenly find themselves with no place to stay after a fire.

"It just happens so quickly for a lot of the people that we help," says Amanda Aldrich with the Red Cross.  "We give them the tools they need and the access to funds immediately. They don't have to worry, where am I going to sleep tonight."

Local fire officials recommend two very important items for all families: smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.  Toledo City code requires detectors for every sleeping area.  'ABC' extinguishers are highly suggested because they'll put out ordinary combustibles, flammable liquids and electrical fires.  As for smoke detector batteries, they should be replaced twice a year, and the whole device every two years to keep the home safe.

"We're finding that less than five percent of families are up to code," says Ferguson.

"I am a new firm believer that smoke detectors are a very important thing," says Poling, who credits smoke detectors for saving her daughter's life. "I have a whole new outlook."

Another device recommended by fire officials is a small, one-time use extinguisher that sits directly above a stove burner in the stove or microwave hood.  'StoveTop FireStop' will automatically spit out a chemical that puts out flames, even in a grease fire. 

While cooking fires start the majority of home fires, using kitchen appliances like the stove, oven and grill are also extremely dangerous.  Chris Kozak with Columbia Gas suggests anyone having trouble heating their home get in contact with their gas company and agencies like the United Way for assistance.

"It's not safe, and it's not wise," says Kozak. "There's no reason for anybody to be in that situation where they have to rely on their kitchen appliance to keep that home warm."

The Polings had to rebuild more than $50,000 worth of damage, but are now in their new kitchen with a new sense of knowledge about home fires.  Korie says they are proud to teach others about fire safety, to keep other families from living their nightmare.

"It was a long haul for us, but we made it through."

*According to the National Fire Data Center, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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