Area fire departments, insurance agent spread safety tips as part of annual campaign

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 1, 2023

With Fire Prevention Week on the horizon, the China Grove and Landis fire departments are partnering with State Farm to remind residents that “Cooking safety starts with you. Pay attention to fire prevention.”

The fire departments and insurance agency are teaming up with the National Fire Protection Association to promote this year’s campaign.

This year’s campaign, which runs Oct. 8-14, works to educate families about simple but important steps they can take to keep themselves and others safe.

“Cooking fires are the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire injuries,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy for the NFPA. “This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign works to highlight when and where cooking fires happen most often, along with simple ways to minimize those risks.”

Local State Farm agent Kristina Cook encourages all residents to cook with caution. In support of those efforts, Cook recently donated Fire Prevention Week kits to the fire departments, which include home fire safety and prevention activities and information for children and adults.

“State Farm encourages homeowners to make fire prevention an important part of their overall home safety plan,” Cook said. “Fire Prevention Week reminds us that cooking with caution should be at the top of the list. This also is a good time to check your smoke alarms to ensure they are functioning.”

China Grove and Landis fire departments shared the following cooking safety tips through this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign:

  • Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove to prevent spills and burns. 
  • Always keep a lid nearby when cooking on the stove. If a small fire starts, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. 
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, boiling, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep kids and pets 3 feet from the stove/oven and where hot foods and liquids are being served. 
  • Watch what you heat. Set 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.
  • Be alert. If you are tired or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove/oven. 

Landis Fire Chief Jason Smith said that his personnel planned to visit Landis Elementary. 

“We will do some basic fire safety reviews with the kids like exit drills, meeting places outside and to get out and stay out,” Smith said. “It’s just the basic fire safety for kindergarten and first grade. We keep it simple. We don’t want to overwhelm them with a lot of information.”

Smith said it is as much about educating the kids as it is alleviating fears they may have of firefighters.

“Young children will hide more than they will try to escape sometimes, so we try to be proactive in checking closets and under the beds if we think kids are involved,” Smith.

Showing children that firefighters are there to help them can dispel notions they may have about a person who might present as intimidating, especially in an emergency situation. 

“We try to show the kids that we are not a monster because you sound a little like Darth Vader breathing through your self-contained breathing apparatus,” Smith said. “We want them to come to us and not run away and hide. That is why we try to put them at ease before we are in a bad situation.” 

Bostian Heights Fire Captain Charles Sheeks is among the first responders aiding in this year’s campaign. 

“Every year, for the past couple of years we have partnered with the national fire safety council,” Sheeks said. “We have a local representative. He has helped us raise money over the past few years to get material out to the students. That handles pre-K through the fifth grade.”

Sheeks said they raised more money this year to get more public education materials than any year previously. 

“For each grade, it is age appropriate material,” Sheeks said. “For some it may be stickers, pencils or bracelets. All of them get some kind of age-appropriate safety manual. Usually for the younger crowds, you look at the stop, drop and roll. When you get to the fourth and fifth grade, you get to kitchen safety.”

Sheeks explained that the goal is to teach the children what to look for and how to be aware of possible hazards, even going behind the parents to “teach them a little something.”

As the largest cause of house fires, cooking can be deadly. 

“Most of it is due to lack of human interaction or attention,” Sheeks said. “We get distracted by a crying kid or try to do something else when we have food cooking.”

With hope, the material passed out will raise awareness and stop the next disaster before it has a chance to become a tragedy.