Experts offer tips to prevent grease fires

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Just one day after a fire ripped through the Cedarwood Apartments in Baton Rouge, killing a 5-year-old girl, fire experts issued a warning in an effort to prevent another tragedy.

While the exact cause of Tuesday's deadly blaze has not been determined, fire investigators say it likely sparked after an 18-year-old allegedly left a pot on the stove. Eldon LeDoux with the St. George Fire Department said he cannot speak directly to Tuesday's fire, but said grease fires are one of the most dangerous types of fires and also the most common.

"One third of all house fires begin in the kitchen," LeDoux said.

An online safety video presented by the National Institute of Fire and Safety Training shows just how quickly grease fires can spread. Most take only minutes before a small spark erupts into a giant inferno. It's a small window of time that could end tragically if people do not react the right way. When most people see a fire, they immediately turn to the faucet to try to get water to put it out, but LeDoux said pouring water on a grease fire is a big mistake.

"Water is absolutely the worst thing to attempt to put out a grease fire," he added.

Instead, he said people need to smother the fire, cutting off its air supply. "Either to place the lid on it to starve it from oxygen or to use baking soda," he added.

A fire extinguisher is also a good option, but it has to be used carefully. "Whenever you're using a fire extinguisher, sweep gently right above the level of the flames or right at the level of the flames," LeDoux said.

Some other fire safety tips include never leave food unattended while cooking, develop a safety plan just in case, and designate a family meeting place in the event of a fire. LeDoux said the most important thing to do is to call 911 immediately in the event of a fire before things get out of hand.

"While you're attempting to put a fire out, if you're not successful, then we've lost that response time and so we'll be dealing with a bigger fire when we get there," LeDoux added.

The cause of the fire at Cedarwood is still under investigation.

For more fire safety tips from the Red Cross, click here.

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