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Kitchen Fire Death Toll Spiked in Minn. Last Year

Updated: 06/19/2014 6:29 PM
Created: 06/19/2014 5:14 PM WDIO.com
By: Briggs LeSavage
blesavage@wdio.com

Six people died in kitchen-related fires across the state in 2013, and now, Duluth firefighters are advising people to be safe while cooking.

Duluth Fire Marshal Marnie Grondahl said while it is unusual for people to die from unattended cooking accidents in Duluth, it is still one of the main causes of fires in the city.

"It's typically unattended cooking that’s probably the leading cause of [fires]," Grondahl said. "It's really one of the most preventable kinds of fires you can have."

The six deaths in 2013 were more than the state has seen in the last seven years combined. It brought unattended cooking to a tie with careless smoking as the leading causes of fire-related deaths in the state.

Grondahl said she's not sure what caused the spike but that one of the most dangerous situations the fire department sees is when people forget they are cooking and walk away from the oven or stove.

"Set a timer... something to remind yourself that you have something cooking," Grondahl said. "Take a hotpad with you into the other room … but it's better if you're cooking anything on the stove top to actually stay in the kitchen, and if it's in the oven, then the timer or oven mit works really well."

If a fire does break out in the kitchen, Grondahl said one of the most important things to do is eliminate the fire's oxygen intake to avoid it spreading.

"If you do have a fire on your stove top and it's a grease fire, you never ever want to throw water on a grease fire," she said. "The best thing to do for a fire that's on the stove top is to slide a lid over the top, and turn the burner off and just let it cool down.

It's a similar story for microwaves and stoves, she said.

"The easiest way to put out a microwave fire if you see something burning in there is to shut it off and it will die down-- same with the oven," Grondahl said.

In an effort to help Northlanders avoid kitchen fires, Grondahl said the Duluth Fire Department plans to use its kitchen fire demonstration trailer to show just how easily fires can break out during multiple events this summer.

There were 6,330 structure fires last year in Minnesota and 44 fire deaths. The top three causes of structure fires were cooking (49 percent), heating (9 percent) and electrical disturbances (6 percent), according to the preliminary Fire in Minnesota report. The final draft of the report will be released later this year.

The Duluth Fire Department uses its kitchen fire demonstration trailer as part of an event to teach people how to respond to house fires.

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