Fire station learns lesson

Published 3:01 pm Monday, September 29, 2008

The North Shelby County Fire District crew learned a firsthand lesson on Sunday as a precursor to Fire Prevention Week.

The Station 3 crew were preparing to cook french fries when they left grease unattended on the stove to respond to an emergency call. When the crew returned to the station at 400 Scotch Drive around 6:30 p.m., smoke was billowing from the kitchen area.

“The kitchen’s basically gutted,” said Chief Michael O’Connor. “Firemen are human beings and they make mistakes from time to time. It’s an inconvenience, it’s traumatic, but we’re thankful nobody was hurt in the process.”

O’Connor suspects it’ll be a month before the kitchen is up and running. The cabinets, carpeting and sheetrock must be replaced. The entire structure must be smoke cleaned. However, there’s a silver lining to this unfortunate event — the public can learn from the fire crew’s mistake.

“If it could happen at a fire station, it could happen to you,” O’Connor said.

Fire Prevention Week, to be observed Oct. 5-11, presents the North Shelby County Fire District with the opportunity to educate the public about fire safety.

According to O’Connor, cooking fires account for 20 percent of the district’s emergency calls. Unattended cooking is the leading factor contributing to ignition in cooking fires.

“Be cautious when cooking on the stove,” O’Connor advises. “And remember to change the batteries in smoke detectors.”

Fully operating smoke detectors cuts fire risks in half, O’Connor said.

If a small grease fire starts in a pan, put on an oven mitt and smother the flames by carefully sliding a lid over the pan. Turn off the stove and wait for the lid to completely cool.

O’Connor hopes these tips will prevent others from sharing the fire crew’s experience.

“Fires can happen to everybody,” O’Connor said. “We need to make lemonade out of these lemons.”

For more tips about fire safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association Web site at