The Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays are just around the corner when family and friends gather to celebrate all it has to offer including the sharing of a home cooked meal. Yet, the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, in the U.S., are cooking fires with the peak days being Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), many home cooking fires involve the stovetop with unattended cooking as the common cause of these types of fires. To keep you and your loved ones safe, follow these simple safety tips:

Cooking Safety Tips

• Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.

• Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food. -If you must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off your range or cooktop.

• If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.

• Keep your cooking area clean and free of combustible materials.
-Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
-Clean up spilled or spattered grease in the oven or on the cooktop; built up grease can catch fire.

• When cooking wear close-fitting clothing or short sleeves so your clothes won’t catch on fire. Loose clothing can easily brush over a hot burner and catch fire.

• If cooking in a microwave:
-Never attempt to heat articles that are not approved for use in a microwave.
-Use only microwave-safe utensils and containers.
-Remove food from packaging before defrosting in a microwave oven. o Never use recycled paper products in microwave ovens.
-Do not leave a microwave oven unattended when microwaving popcorn, since the heat buildup can cause fires.

Kitchen Fire Safety Tips

Should a fire occur when cooking:

• On the stovetop, smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the stove.

• For an oven fire, turn off the oven and keep the door closed.

• In a microwave, turn it off immediately. Then simply wait until the fire suffocates. Never open the microwave door until you are absolutely certain that the fire is out. If in doubt, call the fire department.

Additional Cooking Safety Tips

• Use back burners and turn pot handles toward the back of the stove to prevent knocking the pots over or children pulling them down.

• Keep children away from the stove when cooking by using a safety gate for younger children and marking with tape a 3-foot “no-kid zone” for older children.

• Use oven mitts when cooking or handling hot food and drinks.

• Stir and test food cooked in the microwave before serving; open heated containers away from you from back to front.

The Prince William County Fire & Rescue System Chief Tim Keen states, “Holidays are meant for fun-filled cherished moments, not memories of visits to the emergency room. Whether cooking during the holiday season or anytime throughout the year, take the necessary precautions to protect you and your loved ones from fires, fire injuries or worse.”

For additional information on cooking fire safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association www.nfpa.org and the U.S. Fire Administration www.usfa.fema.gov.

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