CATERING students took time out of the classroom to take part in a new campaign aimed at reducing kitchen-related fires and saving lives.
Teenagers from Hartlepool College of Further Education, Stockton Riverside College and Middlesbrough College competed in the inter-college cooking challenge to coincide with Cleveland Fire Brigade’s kitchen safety campaign.
The campaign is running until the end of February and the competition was held at Hartlepool College of Further Education, in Stockton Street.
Under the watchful eye of the Cleveland Fire Support Network and fire safety personnel, students were given a set time to serve up their healthy delicious dishes and the winning team was from Stockton, whose students cooked up a tasty tomato and basil gnocchi, which was described by judges as “well seasoned and well presented”.
Judges included leading chefs, town restaurateur Krimo Bouabda and Alan O’Kane from Wynyard Hall Hotel and Spa and Phil Lancaster, director of community protection for Cleveland Fire Brigade.
The winning team won a week’s training at Wynyard Hall Hotel and Spa plus a meal for each student with an accompanying guest.
Fire chiefs have urged residents to take more care after figures, revealed to coincide with the campaign, show 13 of the 23 house fires in Hartlepool in 2012 were sparked because of incidents in the kitchen.
Mr Lancaster said: “This is a really important and high profile campaign as the majority of house fires across Cleveland start in the kitchen and by following a few simple tips, they could be prevented.
“We will be reaching out to all our communities across the area, but in particular, we will be targeting people who we feel are at highest risk and ensure we give them the right advice and support.
“You wouldn’t really think it, but the kitchen is the most dangerous room in your home and it’s where the most fires occur– remember your kitchen can kill.”
The Cleveland Fire Support Network – a voluntary group who works alongside the brigade – organised the cooking competition and are supporting the campaign.
Heather Whyman, chief executive fo the support network, said: “The cooking competition is around local colleges and students because this is the time in their lives when many students start to live independently and spend more time in the kitchen preparing and cooking meals.
“Two-thirds of house fires start in the kitchen and we were advising people how incidents can be avoided and how they can stay safe.”
Students were also given fire safety advice and there was a demonstration of an old fashioned chip pan fire.
For more information visit www.clevelandfire.gov.uk/kitchen or call (01429) 874063 to arrange a fire home safety visit.