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Kitchen Safety: tips to avoid burns and fires

Four Vandenberg fire fighters put out a training fire in east base housing here. The 30th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Protection Flight have five live training fires planned from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. between Sept. 14 and Oct. 1. The training will consist of live fire training inside a residential structure and will give the firefighters the opportunity to get first-hand knowledge of fire behavior as well as the specific stages of fire growth in safer, controlled environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vanessa Valentine)

Four Vandenberg fire fighters put out a training fire in east base housing here. Cooking-related mishaps are the number one cause of home fires in the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vanessa Valentine)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- As pleasurable as cooking can be, things like heat, flames, steam, oil, grease and electricity can form a combustible recipe if the utmost care is not taken when working in the kitchen. Just ask any of the thousands of people who each year are burned or injured in cooking-related mishaps--the number one cause of home fires in the United States. 

But just like any favorite dish, a safe kitchen requires the right ingredients and steps: 

· Never leave what you are cooking unattended, even to answer the door or the phone. If you must leave the kitchen, turn off the heat and take with you a reminder that you have something cooking. Turn off the stove, oven or appliances as soon as you are done using them.
· Keep flammable items such as towels, pot holders, boxes or paper bags away from your cooking area and appliances.
· Wipe up appliances after spills and regularly clean the grease that builds up on the stove, oven and exhaust fan. Cooking grease and oil ignite easily and burn rapidly.
· Avoid reaching over the stove for anything while cooking. Store frequently needed items in other areas of the kitchen. The same goes for cookies or treats that might tempt children to climb on or near the stove.
· Keep pot handles turned inward, where they won't be accidentally bumped and will be out of a child's reach.
· Don't wear loose-fitting clothes like a bathrobe while cooking. If wearing long sleeves, roll them up securely.
· Use pot holders when handling anything hot, especially food from microwave ovens. Shield yourself from steam when uncovering hot food.
· Heat cooking oil slowly--it can catch fire if heated too quickly.
· Don't overload electrical outlets or extension cords with too many appliances and keep appliances that generate heat away from walls or curtains.
· Always have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen; also keep handy a box of baking soda and a large metal lid. 

You know the joy of cooking can quickly go up in smoke. But if it's too late to prepare and a cooking fire occurs, remember the following: 

· Never use water or flour on a grease fire. It will make the fire bigger. Smother the fire with a metal pan.
· Do not try to carry a burning pan outside or to the sink. You could accidentally spread the fire.
· If a fire starts in an oven or microwave, shut the door, keep it closed, and turn off the heat source or electricity.
· If your clothes catch on fire, "Stop, Drop and Roll" while covering your eyes.
· Use a fire extinguisher on small, confined fires. If the fire will not go out, evacuate and call 911 from outside or next door.