Varita Court residents receiving SmartBurners

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Preventing cooking fires is set to take a smart step forward this month for residents of the Wilson Housing Authority’s Varita Court apartments when Wilson Fire/Rescue Services installs a new technology in the historic building that fire officials say will stop stovetop cooking fires.

Each apartment is scheduled to receive four SmartBurners for its stove. The burners contain technology that prevent them from heating to a temperature that would cause whatever is on the stove to combust and start a fire.

“It is not possible for you to have a fire on these burners,” Ben Huston, life safety educator for the fire department, told residents of Varita Court as he talked to them about the technology and why it will be safer for them to have them in their apartments rather than the regular burners on their stoves.

The SmartBurners are the result of a grant from the company that builds them, Pioneering Technologies, which allowed the Wilson Fire/Rescue Services to acquire 100 of the units.

Deputy Chief Ben Smith said Pioneering Technologies approached the city about getting the grant because of the total risk reduction programs that Wilson Fire/Rescue Services has in place across the city.

“They came to us and said they wanted to invest in our community,” Smith said. “This is one of the best fire reduction units that we have seen. This particular technology stops the fire from starting.”

The Wilson Housing Authority recently acquired Varita Court and is in the process of renovating the 1920s-era building on Goldsboro Street.

“We have a terrific partnership with Wilson Fire/Rescue Services and installing these burners will make the apartments safer for the residents,” said Kelly Vick, president and CEO of the housing authority.

Smith said cooking fires are one of the leading causes of fire in any residence and that over the last decade there have been four fatalities related to cooking fires in Wilson.

The housing authority has already put SmartBurners in its units at C. Bruce Rose Plaza, and Huston said the residents there can already see the results. “It’s a win-win situation.”

In addition to the SmartBurners, the fire department will also install a smoke detector with a 10-year lithium battery in each apartment in Varita Court.

Wilson Fire/Rescue Services has enough SmartBurners to install them in 15 other Wilson Housing Authority units, including the townhouses on Hackney Street.

Huston left residents with a word of warning, however, about the SmartBurners. “This will not save your food,” he told them, “but it will stop it from reaching the temperature where it will catch on fire.”