Don’t leave cooking food unattended. Wear tighter or snug-fitting sleeves when cooking. Use sturdy candleholders and keep candles at least four feet away from curtains or cabinets.
Those are some of the safety tips distributed by the Fire Department of New York in Williamsburg and other heavily Jewish areas as Jews prepare for Yom Kippur with large meals before and after the day of fasting, prayer and reflection.
“The Sabbath and Jewish holidays are a time of family gatherings, celebrated with special foods, songs and customs,” reads the tip sheet, which notes that half of all apartment fires and a quarter of all home fires begin in the kitchen. “Many holy days and observances, as well as the weekly Sabbath, are a time for traditional cooking and candle rituals.
“However, without safety precautions, these customary religious observances may increase the risk for fires and fire-related injuries.”
Members of Orthodox communities have occasionally fallen victim to tragic fires as a result of candle-lighting or food left cooking during Shabbat or holidays. It was in Williamsburg where a fire that began in the kitchen engulfed a home and took the life of the Satmar grand rebbe's granddaughter and great-granddaughter on Shavuot in 2000.
Five years later, on Passover, three brothers ages 6, 13 and 17 died in a Passover fire that started in the kitchen in the Bedford Gardens apartment complex.