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House fire investigations rise in Boca Raton during coronavirus pandemic, officials say

Posted at 3:34 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 17:57:10-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — As more families spend time together at home because of the coronavirus pandemic, fire inspectors in Boca Raton say they've seen an increase in house fires

"Families were now back to the 1950s where they stayed home riding bikes, playing board games," said Senior Fire Inspector Jay Sumner with Boca Raton Fire Rescue. "They are looking for things to do."

That includes activities like cooking inside, grilling outside, even lighting candles to make a home smell better.

"There is nowhere to go out, so people are cooking at home, grilling at home more," Sumner explained while wearing a surgical mask.

Sumner said that in this day and age of coronavirus, anyone is vulnerable.

"I have even seen some mistakes in a firefighter’s house," said Sumner.

Sumner said typically his team will investigate one to two fires a month. In the last few weeks however, that number has jumped to five or six.

"Recently, we have had some grills that were too close to the home," said Fire Inspector Joe Ildefonso with Boca Raton Fire Rescue. "The fire got up into the eaves. Now we have a structure fire from grilling out back."

From March 1 to April 16, the Red Cross has responded to:

  • 25 fires in Miami-Dade County
  • 13 fires in Broward County
  • 12 fires in Palm Beach County
  • 5 fires in St. Lucie County
  • 7 fires in Lee County
  • 2 fires in Collier County
  • 2 fires in Highlands County
  • 2 fires in Monroe County
  • 1 fire in Indian River County
  • 1 fire in Okeechobee County
  • 1 fire in Hendry County

In total, 266 people received assistance from the Red Cross for these fires. Data from the previous year was not immediately available for comparison.

So what do you do if your grill catches fire?

"Safely get to it and close the lid," said Ildefonso. "Shut the power off and kill the burners to stop the fire from continuing. It will eventually burn itself out. We always want to have an extinguisher nearby, or a hose or spicket."

If you have to use a fire extinguisher, remember P-A-S-S:

  1. Pull the pin
  2. Aim the hose
  3. Squeeze the trigger
  4. Sweep side to side

Outdoor cooks will also want to keep the grill at least 10 feet away from any structure, and avoid grilling on balconies and underneath any tree canopies, gazebos, and power lines.

Remember that preventative maintenance is also key, like cleaning the grease trap and grill to help stop the spread of a potential grease fire.

Last, but certainly not least, always turn off the gas if you are using a gas grill.