La Crosse Fire Department installs SmartBurners in low-income housing areas

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — The La Crosse Fire Department has been installing new burners on stoves in public housing. The burners will cook people’s holiday dinners without the danger of fires.

SmartBurners prevent cooking oils from reaching a temperature in which they catch on fire.

“Most of the cooking fires we see are the result of cooking oils getting to the point where they auto ignite,” said Pat Corran, the Fire Department’s community risk educator.

Firefighters replaced traditional coil burners with the new burners after the department noticed a trend of calls involving house fires. Many of the fires started because of unattended stove tops.

“People put something on the stove top, kids get in the way, life gets in the way, phone gets in the way,” Corran said. “They leave the kitchen and then they’re not there to smell that oil is starting to look like it might catch. Then they come back and they have a fire on their hands.”

Following the increase of house fires, the Fire Department reached out to the Housing Authority of La Crosse to propose filing a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant for fire prevention and safety. The grant would provide money for the installation of smart burners in low-income households.

“It was kind of a no-brainer for us,” said Steve Schauf, the Housing Authority’s executive director. “This is the technology we’ve already been trying to incorporate with the new ranges we’ve been purchasing to buy.”

After FEMA approved the grant, the Housing Authority notified residents ahead of the burner installations. Residents received fliers, brochures, and instructions manuals detailing how to use the SmartBurners.

“It’s definitely helped, and they’ve all understood and taken a liking to it,” Schauf said.

The tenants received the SmartBurners at no personal cost. The Housing Authority paid a small fee to receive the grant money.

“Five percent is what I believe it was for the Housing Authority to receive a substantial amount of money in an upgrade to our units,” Schauf said.

Once installation is complete, nearly 550 stoves in seven Housing Authority buildings will have safe stoves.

Anyone who wants to replace burners with the SmartBurners can find them at home improvement stores, according to the Fire Department.

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