MORE than half of all accidental fires in homes in Hartlepool last year started in the kitchen.
Fire bosses are urging residents to take more care after figures revealed 13 of the 23 house fires in the town in 2012 were sparked because of incidents in the kitchen.
Ten of those were as a result of ovens and pans being left unattended, including three chip pan and two frying pan incidents.
Cleveland Fire Brigade and voluntary organisation Cleveland Fire Support Network are now encouraging people to be more aware and follow simple tips to “avoid household catastrophe”.
Heather Whyman, chief executive of the support network, said: “These figures show that more attention needs to be taken in the kitchen.
“People can’t take any chances, it can happen in a split second and it can kill.”
There were 110 fires in homes in Teesside last year which started in the kitchen, an increase on the 100 the year before and 98 in 2010.
Of the 110 kitchen fires last year, 61 were sparked by cooking appliances.
Heather admits the trend is concerning but believes the increase isn’t helped by people not being able to afford to eat out at restaurants or get takeaway food.
“A lot of people have lost their jobs and we have seen so many cutbacks everywhere,” she added.
“People just can’t afford to eat out as much as they used to which means they are cooking at home more, which increases the chance of an accident happening.
“That is why we are asking people to just make sure they take more care.”
The warning comes as Cleveland Fire Brigade and Cleveland Fire Support Network use campaigns to try and raise awareness of kitchen fires.
The brigade’s Kitchen Safety campaign is running throughout February and the network has organised a number of events to mark Chip Pan Safety Week.
To help avoid disaster in the kitchen, fire chiefs are urging residents to never leave cooking unattended and clean out grills immediately after use.
Chip pans should be binned, they say, and people should never drink and fry.
Firefighters advise people to never hang materials near to heaters or cookers and to maintain electrical kitchen appliances.
Phil Lancaster, Director of Community Protection said: “Nearly 60 per cent of all accidental fires in homes in Hartlepool originated in the kitchen and we are urging people to think before they start cooking as the majority of these were due to pans being left unattended.
“It’s not just chip pans that can easily catch fire but also grill pans and frying pans are just as likely to catch alight.
“No one expects their homes to catch fire but 23 homes in Hartlepool last year suffered, and we are urging people to keep themselves and their families safe by following some simple safety tips that will help them avoid a household catastrophe.”
l TOMORROW: Brave mum of fire victim speaks out