Firefighters take aim at cooking, candle, electrical fires
Whether cooking in the kitchen or outside on the grill, people must be sure to never leave cooking unattended and to keep children and pets away from the cooking area.

WIESBADEN, Germany - Unattended cooking and candles in housing residences were the primary cause of fires in U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden military installations, according to fire loss statistics for fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

"Unattended cooking is still the major cause of fires - whether grilling or in the kitchen," said Ken Isted, assistant chief of fire prevention for the garrison.

While overall there have been fewer fires in the garrison, both Isted and Karin Morrell, Wiesbaden fire inspector, said of the seven fires since October 2007, two resulted from unattended cooking, two involved candles, one was electrical in nature and two were caused by either technical malfunction or a dryer fire.

No one was severely injured in any of the fires (a resident did suffer smoke inhalation in a Crestview blaze caused by an unattended candle), but two cooking fires in Hainerberg and Aukamm Army family housing in November 2007 and September 2008 caused nearly $100,000 in damages.

To protect lives and property, Isted and Morrell underscored the importance of observing the same cooking safety guidelines whether in the kitchen or outside grilling.

"The main thing when barbecuing it that once it's fired up, stay with it," said Morrell, stressing that keeping children and pets away from the grill, only using approved equipment that is in good condition and constantly attending the cooking are crucial.

"Also, be careful where you store starter fluids making sure that no kids can get into them," she said, adding that storing gas containers and fluids out of sight is also important for force protection and security reasons.

Other tips to keep in mind when grilling include placing the grill a safe distance away from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic; only doing so outdoors; periodically removing grease and fat buildup in trays; never adding charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already ignited; checking gas cylinder hoses for leaks before using; and never storing propane gas cylinders in buildings or garages.

Just as in the kitchen, young ones should be kept away from the cooking area, utensils and handles should not jut out into foot traffic areas, packaging and other materials should be removed from the stove or grill area, and lids and potholders must be readily available to cover combustibles and safely handle potentially hot handles.

Regularly checking to make sure smoke detectors are working properly is another important fire safety reminder, said Isted, adding, "It's there to protect you and your family."
With several of the recent blazes caused by electrical fires, Isted said residents must always be conscious of not overloading electrical circuits. "That includes not putting too many plugs in one outlet, avoiding chain-linking cords and never using space heaters which are prohibited. It's important to make sure whatever electrical appliances you have are properly tested and appropriately labeled."

An increase in candle sales in recent years has resulted in a commensurate number of candle-related fires, according to Installation Management Command-Europe safety officials.

Candles are prohibited in the workplace by fire regulations.

In the home and barracks when using candles, IMCOM-E fire safety officials said residents must observe the following safety dos and don'ts:

(bullet) Always put candles on a heat-resistant surface - never on a television or other plastic surface.

(bullet) Place them in a firm, upright holder.

(bullet) Never place candles near curtains, fabric or furniture. Keep out of drafty areas such as near a window.

(bullet) Keep away from clothes, hair, children and pets.

(bullet) Don't move candles when lit. Extinguish before leaving unattended. Make sure they are completely out.

In the case of a fire everyone should be sure to report the blaze immediately, said Morrell. "Regardless of whether there's a fire alarm system, you still need to call. It's better to make five calls for the same fire than assume it has already been done and none is made. They should always call and give us the five Ws (who, what, when, where and why)."

Whether from a military or civilian phone, garrison community members should call the "117" number to ensure reaching an English-speaking respondent, said Isted. "From a DSN phone simply pick up the telephone and dial 117." From a civilian line dial the military prefix (705 in Wiesbaden, 6 in Baumholder) and then 117.

The USAG Wiesbaden Fire Department on Wiesbaden Army Airfield has new labels available with the garrison emergency number listed for offices and homes that can be posted on telephones, Isted added.

Page last updated Thu April 30th, 2009 at 09:45