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RAF LAKENHEATH — Careless cooking proved to be the leading cause of fires on this base in 2007, continuing a trend typically seen throughout the Air Force, according to a base fire inspector.

Lakenheath’s fire station reported 10 house fires in 2007 as of last week, many of those resulting from unattended cooking. There were five other fire calls involving base facilities, aircraft and vehicles, said Tech. Sgt. Kevin Smith, fire inspector.

Smith cautioned that it takes only a few seconds for a hot pan of grease to erupt into a blaze.

“It happens so quickly,” he said, adding that one shouldn’t leave an open fire even if it’s on an electric stovetop.

The most recent careless-cooking fire that Lakenheath firefighters responded to involved a homeowner trying to cook French fries in a home on Spruce Close last month, he said.

Fortunately, the fire didn’t grow out of control and only left minor damage, Smith added.

Before leaving the kitchen, residents are advised to turn off the stovetop, place the item on a cool burner, and put a secure lid on it, in order to prevent cooking-related fires.

Unattended candles, extension cords that are “daisy chained” together, as well as overused power strips also have caused fires, Smith said.

And during the colder months, Smith recommends that base housing and facilities use space heaters with tip-over protection.

“A lot of times when your heater tips over, it’ll keep running and start burning up the carpet,” he said.

Smith also touched on the importance of routinely checking the pressure on fire extinguishers, changing the batteries of smoke detectors twice a year and devising an escape plan for each household.

To report a fire on RAF Lakenheath call 911. For off-base fires, call 999.

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