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Stove top device to put a stop to oven fires

By Ed Brock

It's basically a firecracker that can put out fires, and Lisa Irby is glad to have it dangling over her oven.

It's called the "StoveTop FireStop," and members of the Riverdale Fire Department installed the devices at Stonegate Rental Townhomes. Irby was one of the recipients of the yellow, metal canisters that hang by a magnet over the stove and, when activated by an oven fire, dispense bicarbonate of soda to extinguish the flames.

"There's a lot of people who could use these," Irby said.

The Riverdale Fire Department recently received a $4,000 grant from the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation to purchase the FireStop devices, Riverdale Fire Marshal John Fore said.

Since a majority of the calls to which the department responds are cooking related fires, the devices are a way to reduce the emergency calls to which they must respond, Riverdale Fire Chief Billy Hayes said.

"There will always be a need for the fire department," Hayes said. "However, if we can minimize the number of times we're requested to respond in an emergency mood it may help reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes that involve emergency vehicles and civilians as well as a reduction of injuries and deaths to civilians and firefighters," Hayes said.

Hayes said his department will distribute more of the devices as funding allows.

The FireStop devices work on a simple principle that makes misfires highly unlikely.

An open flame must go high enough to light the fuse on the bottom of the canister that is suspended two or three feet above the surface of the oven. A small pyrotechnic device inside the canister then pops, opening the canister's petals and releasing the extinguishing agent.

"It's not going to go off while your cooking your french fries," Fore said.

Firefighting begins with prevention, Hayes said, and that's why he wants to be "proactive" and not "reactive."

"When intervention (by the fire department) is needed it's probably way too late," Hayes said.

When 911 is activated the fire department is in a reactive mode, Hayes said. Most deaths in fires occur before 911 is ever called.

The canisters are helpful, but they are still a "reactive" approach, Hayes said. Safe cooking habits, such as never leaving food cooking unwatched on a stove, is prevention.

Irby says she usually stays in or near the kitchen when cooking, and she tells her daughter to do the same. But she has a friend who has told her some stories.

"He knows a lot of people who fall asleep and leave the oven on," Irby said.

Stonegate manager Cindy Martin said she's glad the fire department picked her complex for distributing the devices.

"I think it will save property," Martin said. "It will save our property as well as other people's property."