PITTSBURG, Kan. — Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries according to usfa.fema.gov/prevention/, which is why a local fire department is using Fire Prevention Week to emphasize the importance of kitchen and fire safety.

“We have a committee that works together for fire prevention, and we try to come up with things that revolve around the theme each year,” said Thomas Vacca, Pittsburg Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief.

“Cooking safety starts with you. Pay attention to fire prevention” — that’s the theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week.

Fire departments nationwide will be ramping up efforts to raise awareness for the dangers that can happen when cooking, including the Pittsburg Fire Department.

“It all centers around education, but we try to do it in a friendly environment where it promotes learning and education,” said Vacca.

To kick off Fire Prevention Week, the department held an open house for the community, on Sunday — to teach the importance of fire safety and cooking awareness.

“It can happen anywhere, any time. And the kitchen is one of those places where you’re busy. And if you get distracted, it can happen so quickly. And we don’t want that. We don’t want to see that happen to anybody,” said Vacca.

Fire departments respond to more than 170,000 house fires due to cooking across the nation.

Officials tell us that it’s usually due to distracted cooking.

“When they start cooking they walk away, then they come back and they encounter a fire in their kitchen,” said Vacca.

Which is why the “Red Cross” is also helping raise awareness.

“It’s important to collaborate together just because we can work with families. And not only are we working with the adults, but we also work with the children and teach them fire safety and things to be aware of,” said John Stinson Red Cross Disaster Action Team Volunteer.

It’s highly recommended to create a game plan, making sure the proper equipment is in your home.

“It’s just seconds that you have to get out.” So the more smoke detectors you have in your home that are operating and in good condition and the better off you’re going to be to be able to get out of the home safely,” said Stinson.