COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) – It can happen to any cook in any kitchen, often with devastating results – that’s when cooking grease ignites into a stovetop fireball.

Cooking fires account for more than half of all residential structure fires.

“A kitchen fire causes anywhere from $10-25,000 in damage,” explains Todd Williams, Coon Rapids Fire Marshal.

Williams has seen ample cases of the devastating damage kitchen fires cause. He says a simple device that hangs over the cooktop is like a fire extinguisher in a can. The device is called a stovetop FireStop and is roughly the size of a can of tuna.

One side of the can has a magnet that can be attached to a metal vent hood, allowing the device to hang over the cooktop.

When flames from a grease fire reach the device fuse, the can opens rapidly, spraying out a blast of dry chemical fire suppressant.

“Anybody can install these. It has a magnet so you just set it on top of the stove. Of course, you have to measure it correctly to assure that the product falls down onto the stove,” Williams said.

Soon, 192 units at the Heritage Heights apartment complex will be getting the Firestop devices installed. In just the last year or so, the complex has seen several close calls with fires that began on a stove.

“Most recently, we did have a grease fire and it wasn’t fun,” said Renate Sandberg, property manager.

The eight buildings at Heritage Heights were built before sprinklers were required. To make them safer, the fire victims assistance company, 1-800-BoardUp, is donating $5,000 to help place FireStop devices in all the units. Heritage Heights is kicking in another $700 for the purchase of the devices.

“The FireStop will help extinguish the fire to save the property. They’ll have some smoke damage, but it saves the property to get them back into the home quicker,” said Tommy Cherep, 1-800-BoardUp’s director of emergency services.

It’s a partnership aimed at keeping residents safe by minimizing damage when cooking gets out of hand.

The devices will be installed free of charge in all units at Heritage Heights in early April.

Homeowners can find the same units in many hardware stores, where they sell for around $45 a pair.

Bill Hudson