SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — As Fire Prevention Week begins, the American Red Cross of Utah is teaming up with local fire departments to emphasize the importance of cooking and kitchen fire safety.

Cooking is the leading cause of home fire injuries and nearly half of all home fires, the American Red Cross states.

Heidi Ruster, Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross Utah/Nevada Region, said the American Red Cross’s goal is not just to respond to disasters, but to prevent them. She said that by taking simple precautions, every Utahn can help reduce the number of kitchen fires, ensuring a safer community.

“The kitchen is where we gather for meals and create lasting memories, but it can also be a potential danger zone. We’re committed to making every Utah kitchen a safe zone,” she said. “Remember, fire safety starts at home and it starts with you.”

Nationwide, fire departments respond to more than 170,000 home fires caused by cooking each year, according to the American Red Cross. The National Fire Protection Association states the primary cause for these fires is unattended stoves during cooking.

These fires reportedly result in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, and more than $1 billion in damages annually.

The Utah Red Cross offers the following kitchen cooking and fire safety tips:

To prevent a cooking fire in your kitchen:

  • Monitor your cooking: unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires
  • Wear short or close-fitting sleeves to prevent loose clothing from catching fire
  • Regularly clean cooking surfaces to prevent food and grease buildup
  • Keep curtains, towels, potholders, solvents, and flammable cleaners away from the stove
  • Never store gasoline indoors
  • Turn pan handles inward to prevent spills

To put out a cooking fire in your kitchen:

  • Call 911 immediately
  • For grease or oil fires, smother flames by sliding a pan lid over them, turn off the heat, and leave the lid on until the pan cool — do not carry the pan outside
  • Use baking soda to extinguish other food fires, but never use water or flour
  • Smother fire with a wet towel or other large wet cloth
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and know how to use it correctly