A call for careful cooking is being issued after a spate of kitchen fires around the county.

New figures from Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service show that between 1 April 2013 and 31 October 2013 there were a total of 61 cooking-related incidents county-wide - with the Workington locality (which covers Allerdale and north Copeland) topping the chart with 26 incidents.

The Barrow locality (covering Barrow, south Copeland and part of South Lakeland) has seen 14 incidents, Carlisle (covering Carlisle and north Eden) 17 and Kendal (covering South Lakeland and southern Eden) four.

While the number of cooking-related fires has been lower over this period than the same time last year, firefighters are calling on residents to show more care – especially over Christmas when homes up and down the county will be cooking festive feasts.

Cumbria’s Chief Fire Officer Ian Cartwright said: “More than half of all accidental house fires start in the kitchen so it’s absolutely crucial that people are aware of the dangers when cooking and take steps to keep themselves and their families safe.

“Getting distracted is often the cause of cooking fires. It’s very easy to forget you’ve got something boiling in a pan or roasting in the oven, so just ensuring you’re switched on and paying attention to what you’re doing in the kitchen can go a long way towards reducing the fire risk.

“Just about every piece of kitchen equipment from chip-pans to toasters and hot-plates to microwaves can be a potential fire hazard if not treated with care.

“As well as being aware of cooking fire safety in your own home, I’d encourage people to look out for their friends, family and neighbours, especially if they’re vulnerable through age or disability and living alone.” Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service is encouraging people to follow these hints and tips for staying safe:

* Keep handles of pans turned to the back of the hob and away from other gas burners/electric rings.

* Take care when cooking with oil – it sets alight easily.

* Take pans off the heat and turn off the hob and/or grill if you have to leave the kitchen while cooking, and make sure the oven, hob and grill is turned off when you have finished cooking.

* Don’t overfill a chip pan with oil – never fill it more than one third full.

* Avoid cooking if you are tired, have been drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or are taking medication that can make you drowsy.

* Keep electrical leads, tea towels, cloths, loose clothing and anything else that may catch fire away from the oven and hob.

* Keep the oven, hob and grill clean – a build-up of fat and grease can easily catch fire.

* Keep your toaster clean, free of crumbs and away from curtains, kitchen rolls and anything else that could catch fire.

* Never put anything metallic inside your microwave.

* Never attempt to sterilise dish cloths or sponges by heating them in the microwave.

* Never overload sockets – use one plug in each socket. If you have to, use a fused adapter and keep the total output to no more than 13 amps (a kettle alone uses 13 amps). Remember, high-rated appliances such as washing machines always need their own socket.

* Make sure plugs have the correct fuse for the appliance being used. If in doubt, refer to the manufacturers instructions.

* Turn off electrical appliances when not being used and have them serviced regularly. * Keep electrical leads and appliances away from water.

* Use a spark device to light gas cookers as this is safer than using matches or lighters.

* Never leave children alone in the kitchen. Keep matches, lighters and pan handles where children can’t reach them. Fit a child safety catch to the oven door.

By educating people about fire dangers and promoting prevention rather than cure, CFRS has brought about a major decrease in fire incidents across Cumbria in the last six years – a 47 per cent reduction between 2007-08 and 2012-13.

As a result, CFRS is currently consulting on proposals for better reflecting current risk patterns and shaping the service to the dangers that actually exist.

To have a say on the Fire Service budget proposals, and others within the council’s public consultation, visit www.cumbria.gov.uk/ourfuture or pick up a copy of the consultation document available in local libraries and other public buildings.

A new online self-assessment has been launched enabling residents in Cumbria to gauge their risk of falling victim to fire in the home. CFRS has created a new web-based home fire safety tool asking a range of questions aimed at identifying the individual's level and type of risk. The home safety assessment can be found at the following link: https://secure3.cumbria.gov.uk/surveys/cumbria/firehomesafetyv5.htm or completed over the telephone by calling Freephone 0800 358 4777.