WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Across the United States from 2010 to 2014, 46 percent of house fires were caused by cooking, according to the National Fire Protection Association. In Winston-Salem, that rate is even higher, and one family spent their Thanksgiving eve cleaning up after becoming a part of that statistic.
The Winston-Salem Fire Department says in the last 12 months, there have been 80 cooking fires, with about 51 percent of them resulting from unattended cooking. The latest came on Tuesday on Country Club Road.
“We’ve had Thanksgivings, Christmas, birthday parties,” said Hannah Weiker, of the home, which has been in her family for three generations. “A little crowded. A little crowded we’ve got a big family, but a lot of love.”
But this year, instead of the normal holiday aromas, the home will be filled with the clinging scent of smoke.
“It’s a lot of black smoke, a lot of water, a lot of insulation, ceiling,” Weiker detailed.
Weiker’s sister is a new mother, of about three weeks. With little sleep, and a lot on her plate, she made a mistake.
“She just turned the stove on, was getting the baby ready and they needed to go to the store, so, they walked out the door,” Weiker said.
Someone phoned in to 911 after a fire started as a result and firefighters were on scene minutes later. Around the same time, Weiker – who was listed as a resident – got a call from police.
“He said, ‘You know, I’m sorry, but the house is on fire,’” she recalled. “Left my cart and everything, in the middle of Walmart, and got in my car and drove over.”
When Weiker arrived, there was a ladder stretched across their front yard, hoses among it and firefighters inside their home.
“We didn’t know if it was contained, we didn’t know if the whole house had just gone up, didn’t know if it was spreading, especially you know, with all the wildfires and stuff going on and the burn bans,” she said. “We had no clue how bad it was going to be.”
Luckily the fire was largely contained to the kitchen. But the aftermath is not one in which the family wants to spend their holiday.
“It just kind of rips your heart out, makes you feel bad that, we should be preparing our food today,” Weiker said.
The Greensboro Fire Department says since 2012, over 31 percent of their residential fires have started in the kitchen.