Charlottetown sees spike in kitchen fires

·2 min read

COVID-19 might be partly to blame for a spike in cooking fires in Charlottetown over the past month, says a fire inspector with the capital city.

Kent Mitchell said over the past 24 days, Charlottetown firefighters have responded to 10 cooking fires.

Damage has ranged from a burned-out pot to extensive kitchen damage.

Mitchell believes the spike in fires could be connected to people being home more because of the pandemic.

"We've had five since Friday, and we've had 10 incidents in the last 24 days so we're certainly concerned about it," Mitchell said during an interview from Charlottetown Fire Station 1 in the city's downtown.

'They just leave for a few minutes'

"They just leave for a few minutes and come back and find themselves with a bit of a fire," he said.

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

Four people were forced out of their home during the latest cooking fire, which happened Saturday morning, said Mitchell.

Firefighters were called to a four-unit apartment building on St. Peters Road in Charlottetown.

One of the units sustained extensive damage, he said, with the fire originating from a pot of oil on the stove.

"There was quite a bit of damage to the kitchen," said Mitchell.

'Injuries occur when people are trying to put out the fire'

"It got into the cupboards and impinged on the ceiling some so there's quite a bit of soot damage and some fire damage done to the kitchen."

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

There were no damages to the other three units in the building.

Mitchell said when a kitchen fire happens, it's best to contain it with a pot cover or a cookie sheet to reduce the flow of oxygen which fuels the fire. If that's not easily doable, he said to call 911 and evacuate the home immediately.

"Half the household injuries occur when people are trying to put out the fire," he said.

The spike in kitchen fires appears isolated to Charlottetown.

CBC News contacted Summerside, North River and Crossroads fire departments.

None of them reported an increase in kitchen fires.

'No way of controlling that temperature'

Mitchell said cooking fires are the most common firefighters have to deal with.

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

The fire inspector said it's important to keep a close eye on what is being cooked and ensure nothing combustible, like an oven mitt or towel, is close to the stove.

He also cautions against cooking with a pot of oil, sometimes used to deep fry french fries. Use a proper deep fryer, he urges.

"We are still seeing open pots of oil," he said.

"The risk is it can overheat and there's no way of controlling that temperature so if you turn your burner on maximum and you do leave for a few minutes it's going to be unattended and that could risk bursting into flames."

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