GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport firefighters on Monday hovered over a gaping hole in the roof, trying to douse the smoldering remnants of a home on 48th Street. Hours earlier, flames were shooting through the roof. The chief says the fire started in the kitchen.
"We determined that the fire was a stove fire," said Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan. "The gentleman that was home had cooked breakfast. And in his rush to get to work, left the stove on and the fire extended throughout the rest of the house."
Chief Sullivan says there have been at least five house fires in Gulfport since Christmas. All of them were cooking-related.
"This is the worst that we've had of the five or six that we've had. It basically destroyed the home, and unfortunately, even a small, minor fire in the kitchen is going to disrupt a family," said Sullivan.
The chief believes during the busy holiday season, people tend to get easily distracted.
"We have folks put on the stove some type of grease or start cooking something and they walk away. A lot of times they get busy talking to someone. We've had people fall asleep when they started cooking," said Sullivan.
Janice Santos knows how destructive kitchen fires can be. She's the manager of Sugar Mill Apartments in Gulfport. She took pictures of two of the units that caught fire in November. Both were caused by hot grease that was left burning on the stove.
"The whole kitchen area was gutted out. Smoke damage throughout the whole apartment," said Santos. "Thank God nobody got hurt and everybody was safe. But it is, it's something that could have been prevented."
The damaged units are undergoing repairs, which cost about $25,000. The fire chief hopes these losses serve as a wake-up call.
"We have had people die because of kitchen fires," said Chief Sullivan. "And so we just need to get the word to people to pay attention. Be more aware of what you're doing and understand that it can happen to you."