Fire department recommends ‘smart burners’ to help prevent cooking fires

Local News

LA CROSSE Wisc. (WLAX/WEUX) – Cooking is an integral part of the holiday season but can also be dangerous if you’re not careful. The La Crosse Fire Department is hoping new technology will reduce one of its most frequent calls for service: cooking fires.

Pat Corran of La Crosse FD said, “Across fire departments across the nation, and also here locally, it’s the number one reason why fire departments are called to put out a fire.”

La Crosse is working with the city’s housing authority to install smart burners in homes with older stovetops. Community risk educator Pat Corran says the devices limit the most common cause of fires in the kitchen.

“Most of the cooking fires that we see are the result of cooking oils getting to the point where they auto-ignite, and these devices that we’re installing today don’t allow those elements to get to that point.”, said Corran.

The burners are being put in housing authority properties that the fire department has frequently been called to. Many of those fires were the result of inattentiveness.

“We’ve had anywhere from residents falling asleep, to leaving water boiling, smoke detectors going off, to grease fires.”

Steve Schauf says the housing authority has been working with families to help them get used to their new burners, but there’s been a bit of a learning curve.

“New technology, change in general, creates a little bit of havoc, but now that they’ve been using them for the last two weeks, almost a month now for some of them, it’s been going well.”, said Schauf.

The burners have been installed at more than 500 properties, but other homeowners can find similar products at stores around La Crosse.

“You can get them at Menards, you can get them at home depot, they’re readily available. If cost isn’t a barrier, and people do want to take that extra step to be safe and prevent incidents like this from happening, it’s basically just plug and play. Or, if you’re going to go out and buy a new range, consider looking into the fact of maybe purchasing one of these new ranges that have this technology built-in.”, said Corran.

The Smart Burner project was funded through a FEMA fire prevention and safety grant.

La Crosse Fire says Thanksgiving and Christmas are the leading days of the year for cooking fires. They also cause more than one billion dollars in direct property damage per year. 

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