Stay fire free this holiday season


By Frank Lewis - [email protected]



While joy abounds during the holiday season, it is also winter, and there is the spectre of a possible fire that unfortunately always accompanies this time of year.

In fact, The American Red Cross reports they respond to nearly 70,000 disasters a year. That’s one every eight minutes.

Last year, Ohio River Valley American Red Cross responded to 165 local disasters.

”Most of those, I think 97 percent were home fires,” Debbie Smith, Community Executive at the Ohio River Valley American Red Cross said. “This year we’ve actually seen a lot of flooding also.”

With the holidays looming large on our calendars, the Red Cross is encouraging families to prevent kitchen fires by taking some basic safety measures.

“The Holidays is the peak time for kitchen fires, and most of those are caused by unattended cooking,” Smith said. “The good news is that home fires can be prevented by following some simple, safety tips.”

Smith said cooks should stay in the kitchen when they are frying, grilling or broiling food. She said if you leave the kitchen even for a short period of time, turn off the stove. Young children and pets should remain at least three feet away from the stove and items that can burn should be moved at least three feet away from anything that gets hot such as sources of heat or stoves.

Smith said you should clean the stove and the area around it before turning on the heat, never leave food on the stove unattended and remember to turn pot handles to the back of the stove to avoid spills.

Even when you take extraordinary precautions, accidents can still happen and Smith says, if a cooking fire occurs, if a pan catches fire, don’t move it. Instead, slide a pan lid or cookie sheet on top of the pan to put out the fire; turn off the heat; keep the lid on the pan until it cools. She said you should never try to stop a grease or oil fire with water – it will fuel the fire.

If something catches fire in the oven, keep the door closed. Call 9-1-1 so firefighters can make sure the fire didn’t spread to the walls. If a fire occurs in the microwave, keep the door closed and unplug the microwave if you can. Don’t use it again until a repairman checks it.

And if the kitchen catches fire, make sure everyone gets out and call 9-1-1 when outside. Once outside, stay out. Never go back inside a burning building. Smith said there is a protocol they follow when they respond to a disaster scene.

“We meet with the people to ensure that they have a place to stay,” Smith said. “If they don’t, we help provide them with a place to be able to stay to ensure that they have a home to go to. If they don’t we usually put them in a hotel. We also provide them with client assistance cards to ensure that they also have things like clothing, food, all the immediate supplies they may need or have lost when they have a home fire.”

Smith said anyone want to assist the Red Cross can mail a check to the Red Cross, 1801 Robinson Avenue, Portsmouth, Ohio 45662; or call them at 740-3543293 or go online to redcross.org.

By Frank Lewis

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

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