Families and individuals across New York State are staying home to practice social distancing to help flatten the COVID-19 curve. With many restaurants closed or limited to take-out or delivery services, more New Yorkers are cooking at home. Cooking and baking can be a positive activity for family connections but it also can lead to some lapses in home kitchen and cooking fire safety. Some local fire departments and dispatch agencies are seeing an increase in calls for minor kitchen fires and burnt food incidents. Local volunteer fire departments are working hard to protect their neighbors and respond to calls for help during these challenging times.

The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York is asking for the public’s help in keeping themselves and others safe as we all work together to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, kitchen fires are the number one cause of home fires and are the number one cause of home fire injuries. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.

“We typically see an increase in home kitchen fires around the winter holidays when families host large dinners, ” said FASNY President Steven E. Klein. “We want to make sure during this pandemic, as everyone is staying home, that we can avoid unnecessary tragedy. Kitchen fires can be avoided by following some simple safety tips like never leaving the stove unattended and checking that smoke alarms are in good working order.”

FASNY would like all New Yorkers to follow a few cooking safety tips as social distancing continues throughout the state.

Remain in the kitchen while cooking. Whether you’re frying, grilling, baking or broiling food, it’s always a good idea to supervise cooking directly. With many New Yorkers working from home, or attending to school-age children that are now home more, it is very easy to become distracted while cooking.

Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for “just a second.” A second is all it takes for a house fire to start.

If you’re simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind yourself that you’re cooking.

For homes with children, have the kids remain outside the kitchen area while food is being prepared. Pets should also be kept out of the kitchen while cooking. The safest chef is an undistracted chef!

Avoid loose or dangling clothing when cooking - particularly around the stovetop burners on gas ranges.

Make sure your smoke detectors are functioning by pressing the “test” button. If needed, replace the batteries – and if not functioning after testing, install brand-new smoke alarms.