Getting smashed at Christmas could waste your kitchen

Getting smashed at Christmas could waste your kitchen
By David Burke
CBC News
Link to article: Getting smashed at Christmas could waste your kitchen

Kitchen fires 5

If you're on the sauce this Christmas, you shouldn't be in the kitchen making the sauce.

That's the advice of the Halifax fire department, which is warning people not to "cook under the influence" and is urging households to appoint a designated cook in the same way you would a designated driver.

The problem is a spike in kitchen fires over the holidays as people get a little too merry with their booze while slaving over the stove, according to Matt Covey, division chief of fire prevention with Halifax Fire and Emergency Services.

Alcohol makes people more easily distracted, disrupts their reasoning and slows their reaction time. Someone who is well lubricated is a danger in the kitchen, he said.

"It makes everything worse," said Covey. "It affects your ability to apply common sense to a situation. You know the pot's on fire, you see it's a grease fire, you panic and you throw it outside and you catch your deck on fire."

Covey said cooks who have been drinking also get distracted by company and wander away from the kitchen or fall asleep when they have food on the stove or in the oven, all of which leads to fires.

He said kitchen fires can cause a lot of damage and even burn down a home.

Covey didn't know exactly how many more fires there are in Halifax during Christmas, but said it's a jump seen across both Canada and the United States.

A survey conducted by the National Fire Protection Association in the U.S. in 2013 showed there were 58 per cent more cooking fires on Christmas Eve compared to an average day, and 54 per cent more on Christmas Day.

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs said there is a rise in cooking fires around most holidays, especially Christmas, but it's difficult to compile data because every province and municipality collects their information differently.

The association is a non-profit group that represents 3,500 fire departments across Canada and works to improve safety for the public and firefighters.

Ken McMullen, a director with the association and an assistant chief with Calgary Emergency Management, said sometimes people forget how much concentration it takes to cook.

"There's multiple things happening," he said. "You've got the gravy on one burner, you've got the turkey in the oven and perhaps you've got the kettle on for a hot cup of tea after dinner.

"It's really about paying attention to all of those things at the same time, and it quite honestly takes some mastery to make sure that all of that is done not only successfully, but it's done safely as well."

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