Overland Park takes aim at kitchen fires

10/01/2013 4:12 PM

10/01/2013 4:12 PM

Overland Park is on a mission to combat kitchen fires.

One of the main causes of house fires in the city is cooking gone awry, said Overland Park Fire Marshal Mark Sweany. And the number of stovetop fires keeps rising.

To increase cooking safety, the fire department is installing range hood extinguishers for free in the homes of people who desperately need them.

The range hood extinguishers magnetically hang above stoves, Sweany explained. When flames from a stove top fire rise, the product inside the can is released, extinguishing the fire. They cost about $50 and can be purchased online or in hardware stores.

The Overland Park Fire Department, however, is installing them for free inside the homes of residents who are generally high-risk for kitchen fires and do not have the financial means to purchase one.

These people may suffer from dementia, other mental illnesses, medical conditions or a lack of mobility, Sweany said. Many of them are elderly, live independently and do not have family in the area.

“A huge number of these fires results from unattended cooking,” Sweany said. “Sometimes people will just forget there’s something on the stove and go into another room.”

Through a grant, the fire department recently received 1,500 range hood extinguishers. The department is currently identifying people who need one, based on residents who’ve had a large number of kitchen fires in the past. They also will keep the extinguishers on fire trucks for firefighters to install at homes of residents they feel fit the profile.

“We’ve been seeing more kitchen fires and we want to prevent them,” Sweany said. “We won’t totally stop them from happening, but at least we can stop the fire from spreading.”

The range hood extinguishers will be featured Saturday in the city’s Fire Safety Open House at the Fire Training Center.

The event kicks off the start of National Fire Safety Week. The theme this year is cooking safety.

The open house will feature training on smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, fire escape plans, and kitchen safety tips. Kids will be able to talk with firefighters and have an up close look at fire trucks and fire equipment.

There will also be a demonstration — either live or via video — about the range hood extinguishers.

Jason Rhodes, the Overland Park Fire Department spokesman, hopes the demonstration will encourage residents to buy a range hood extinguisher for their home, or for someone they know could really use it.

But the extinguishers must be used with caution, he warns.

“We don’t want people to rely on them,” Rhodes said. “It’s very important that people be attentive to their cooking.”

He hopes residents of all ages go to the open house Saturday. Not only is it going to be fun, but it is also important, he said.

“We want to remind people about fire safety because it’s not something people think about frequently,” Rhodes added. “People don’t realize there are a lot of ways to stay safe.”

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