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Preventing the Most Common Cause of Fire

with Robert Avsec
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   Fire Prevention Week in October is the time many departments visit schools and hold events, teaching prevention, exhorting residents to change the batteries in smoke detectors, and encouraging every family to have an “escape plan.” This year, Fire Prevention Week is October 6th-12th. The slogan is “Get Cookin’ with Fire Safety,” that is, preventing cooking fires.

   In 2011, 166,600 residential fires were attributed to cooking, by far the leading cause. Between 2009 and 2011, 29% of non-residential structure fires were also attributed to cooking, again the leading cause.

Cooking Fire Deaths and Injuries by year, Deaths: 85 in 2008, 105 in 2009, and 140 in 2010; Injuries: 3475 in 2008, 3350 in 2009, 3750 in 2010.

   For more, see: Let’s Put a “Lid” on Cooking Fires: Part I - Fatal Macon fire caused by pot of grease on stove, Chattanooga teen burned in kitchen fire

   In FEMA’s 2001 report on Fire Station Fires, “cooking fires” were also the leading cause of fire station structure fires. It happens. Imagine you are in the middle of dinner (everyone knows that firefighters are the best on-shift cooks) and you get toned out. Dinner keeps going, and you can guess the rest. For more, see: Pot left on stove causes blaze at Columbia fire station

   To help snuff out cooking fire danger, try the e-book Putting a Lid on Food-on-the-stove Fires, by Fire Chief (Ret) Stanley Tarnowski with Fire Chief (Ret) Robert Avsec. This book discusses how low-cost technology can stop cooking fires before they start, and also provides a program of education for your community to encourage this technology, both in new stoves and for retrofitting older stoves. How low cost? For under $400 the High-End, Heat-Limiting Technology (HEHLT) “Safe-T Element” can be installed in under 30 minutes. This technology has already been adopted by the Department of Defense for military residences worldwide. (1)

   It is time for the fire service to take notice. Protect yourselves while protecting others. Police stations, EMS locations, and any other free-standing first responder duty station with an electric stove: take notice. While we all trust that we’ll turn off the stove before every call, why not have a backup plan?

   The book cites a Georgia city where a presentation led community leaders to implement this technology in all buildings for which the city is responsible. Preventing kitchen fires includes community outreach and awareness. This October, along with the prevention campaigns, visits by Sparky, and firehouse tours, consider the role of a simple, inexpensive technology for personal and public safety.

To get your copy of the e-book, for $7.95 visit:

Fire Chief (Ret.) Stan Tarnowski
   Fire Chief (Ret.) Stan Tarnowski is the President of FIRESAFE Consulting Group. Previously, Chief Tarnowski held key leadership positions in the State of Georgia with Henry County Fire Department, the Georgia Fire Academy, and the Union City Fire Department.

   Battalion Chief (Ret) Robert P. Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield (VA) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He spent a cumulative total of 9+ years in staff officer positions as Director of EMS Division, Co-Manager of Emergency Communications Center (911), and Director of Training & Safety Division. Chief Avsec also served multiple tours of duty in the department's Emergency Operations Division. Today he is a freelance writer for a major fire service trade journal on-line and has his own blog, Talking “Shop” 4 Fire and EMS, at

1)   Stanley Tarnowski & Robert Avsec, Putting a Lid on Food on the Stove Fires, e-book, pg. 6 -

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