Maintaining fire safety during Safer at Home order

Published: May. 1, 2020 at 5:25 PM CDT
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Across the Badger State, almost 300 people were displaced by home fires in April.

With more people staying in due to the Safer at Home order, the American Red Cross said the rate of home fires is unusually high for this time of year. According to Eau Claire Fire Inspector Jason Knecht, a majority of home fires start in the kitchen.

"Cooking fires account for over half of home fires in the nation,” he said. “Especially now with everybody being home, they are cooking more."

If you do accidentally start a fire in the kitchen, the fire department said there are ways to safely put it out.

"The best thing to do is shut the heat off if they can reach it and cover it. If you don't have a cover, you can use baking soda, but don't try to move the pot,” Knecht said. “Don't take it to the sink, because you're going to drop fire and grease and probably burn yourself and spread the fire."

Red Cross Communication Officer Justin Kern said so far this spring, the fire rate matched what's usually seen during the winter months. He said with families staying home due to COVID-19 now is a great time to talk about fire safety.

"Statewide we are seeing about double the rate of home fires that we would usually see for spring,” Kern said. “You should use this time to talk with your family, know two ways to get out of every single room, that there is a meeting place, that you check your smoke alarms and that the little ones know how to dial 911."

Firefighters say one of the most important things you can do to keep your family safe is check your smoke detectors.

"You should test them once a month and change the batteries twice a year,” Knecht said. “They are only good for 10 years from the date of manufacture, so if it is older than 10 years old, the reliability goes down. It might still work, but it might take more smoke to make it work."

In 2019, 49 people died in home fires in Wisconsin. So far this year, 26 people have died in home fires, up 12 from this time last year according to the US Fire Administration.

For more information on how to keep your family safe from home fires,