Cooking fires move to leading cause of fire deaths

Preventing cooking fires

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Many of you likely spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but it can be dangerous. The Charlotte Fire Department says cooking fires are now the leading cause of fire deaths.

One family says that cooking fire statistic is too real for them.

“It was just like a nightmare that I have yet to wake up from," said Dominique Bradley, a woman whose son, Michael Johnson, was killed in a cooking fire.

In April of 2018, Bradley woke up to banging on her door and a panicked message about her son Michael.

“That year was his 10th birthday year, he was going to middle school,” said Bradley. “His smile can light up a room. Always willing to help others, to be the spotlight, he just loved life.”

Michael was spending the night with a cousin for spring break.

She was making french fries on the stove then fell asleep and fire broke out.

Neither she nor Michael survived.

“Cooking is now the leading cause of all fire deaths in the United States. We can’t figure out why we can’t solve this problem," said Leigh Kish, fire and life safety educator for CFD.

Charlotte Fire says they have responded to 396 structure fires so far in 2019. Of those, 122 have been related to cooking. That means that 30.8% of all those fire calls have been related to cooking fires.

“I call fire a living breathing thing, it’s hungry and wants to breathe,” said Kish.

So if a fire breaks out in your home, what can you do?

“If you see flames coming out of the pot that’s on the stove don’t get the baking soda, don’t get the salt, get the lid," said Kish.

If you’re cooking using oil, fire professionals say do not try and put it out with water.

“Water can make it worse and cause an explosion if you will, makes the fire bigger definitely," said Kish.

They say the biggest cause of fires is unattended cooking so to avoid that don’t ever leave the kitchen but if you have to, bring something with you.

“Carry something, get a dish towel, a rag, something to carry into your hand that’s going to make you go back into that kitchen," said Kish.

Bradley says she wishes she had known those things to save her own child, but after losing Michael something clicked for her.

“I was like you know I can’t help another child by laying in this bed and just crying every day and not trying to make a change," said Bradley.

So she started a backpack drive in Michael’s memory with bands attached to the backpacks that have reminders to make a fire safety plan, check smoke detectors.

“Unfortunately I couldn’t save mine and hopefully making awareness that’s saving one child who didn’t know before," said Bradley.

If you want to support the book bag drive in honor of Michael there are collection boxes at all Charlotte Fire stations until August 13. You can find more information here.

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