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Firefighters use live demonstration to show the dangers of kitchen fires

BATH (WGME) -- They can destroy homes and tear apart lives, and in some cases, have proven deadly.

But firefighters say kitchen fires can be prevented.

FOX23 News at 10 brings you inside a burning building during one of the largest live fire demonstrations in Maine in recent history.

It's done in a safe, controlled environment with the help of several local fire departments.

Also joining the efforts to keep Mainers safe is the Tanguay family who narrowly escaped a kitchen fire in their Bath home back in February.

Tanya Tanguay will never forget the day fire put her family in danger.
I have never been so scared in my life, she said.

Her husband, Jon, was trapped with their son, Nicholas, in their third floor apartment.

We only had a matter of minutes at that time, Jon Tanguay recalled.

It was February 20, 2014 when the Tanguays became part of a startling statistic.

There are more than 370,000 residential fires in the US every year.

Nearly half of those fires start with cooking.

In Maine, 90 percent of cooking fires start with food left unattended on the stove.

It's a problem so bad, firefighters from five different departments joined forces to help FOX23 News at 10 send a message.

When fire starts, it becomes a life hazard, said Brunswick Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Emerson.

Firefighters from Brunswick, Topsham, Bath, West Bath, and Freeport take us inside a Topsham building scheduled for demolition to show us what to do if fire happens to you.

Cooking oil left on the stove self-ignites in minutes.

We have a lot of distractions going on in our homes and people forget about food on the stove, explained Brunswick Firefighter Dan Brown.

Brown shows us one way to smother the flames.

Slide a cover over the top of it, he said placing a cookie sheet on the flames. Then turn the stove off.

If that doesn't work, Brown says use a proper multi-purpose fire extinguisher that should be mounted near the kitchen door.

And if that doesn't work, Brown says stop trying to fight the fire, get out of the house, and call 911 right away.

Experts say waiting too long to call for help could mean the difference between life and death.

They try to keep fighting the fire and then the smoke layering, that thermal layer, comes down and they're overcome by smoke, explained Brunswick Fire Capt. Matt Barnes.

Experts are warning about another decision that could be deadly.

When they're in panic mode they think water goes along with fire, Brown said.

Keeping a safe distance, Brown and several other firefighters used a long pole with a bottle of water on the end to show us what happens if you try to put out a grease fire with water.

That grease fire erupted, it started catching those cabinets on fire, and it had gone too far, Capt. Barnes said.

Back in February, Jon Tanguay saw smoke, called for help right away, and crews arrived just in time.

He dropped Nicholas out of a third story window down to a firefighter and then he jumped out the window to safety.

I always went along with the attitude, it can never happen to me, and it did, said Tanya.

Now, the Tanguays are using their life lesson to help other families make it out alive.

Dont try to fight it, Jon said. It's not worth it.

His wife agreed.

It can happen and you need to be prepared, Tanya said.

Firefighters say working smoke detection is the single most effective way to survive a house fire.

And the best way to prevent a cooking fire is to never leave food on the stove unattended.