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There are important safety measures to follow this holiday when cooking in the kitchen in order to avoid a fire.

Every year during the holidays stories of kitchen fires make the headlines.

The fires are often caused by a lack of attention to detail. Alexander City Fire Department Capt. David McCoy said a few simple things can help prevent most fires.

“First, you have to be aware of your surroundings,” McCoy said. “If you’re cooking outdoors or in your kitchen, there are things to do or have on hand.”

McCoy said if cooking inside on the stovetop there is one big don’t if fire occurs.

“Don’t use water,” he said. “Doing so can make the grease float and make matters worse. The best thing to do is have the lid to the pan nearby and cover it. The other option is to throw flour on it. Baking soda also works. You are trying to smother the fire if you have one.”

If you put a lid on a fire, do not remove it as the fire could start again.

For an oven fire, McCoy suggests turning the oven off and keeping the door closed because opening it will give the fire the oxygen it needs to spread. 

When cooking outdoors McCoy said people have to be aware of their surroundings regardless of if they are frying or using a smoker.

“You need to make sure nothing flammable is close by,” McCoy said. “The smoker and buckets of oil will get hot. If you are frying a turkey, make sure it is fully thawed and dry. Not doing so can cause an adverse reaction when you put the turkey in.”

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) said there were 1,600 reported home cooking fires on Thanksgiving 2017, a 238% increase of the daily average. It said unattended cooking was the leading cause of cooking fires. NFPA also said cooking fires amount to 49% of all U.S. home fires and 45% of fire injuries.

NFPA offers these tips to eliminate the possibility of a fire while cooking.

• Never leave the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop. Some types of cooking, especially those that involve frying or sauteing with oil, need continuous attention.

• When cooking a turkey in an oven, stay in your home and check it regularly.

• Make use of timers to keep track of cooking times, particularly for foods that require longer cook times.

• Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels at least 3 feet away from the cooking area.

• Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that could come in contact with a heat source.

• Keep children at least 3 feet away from the stove. Kids should also stay away from hot foods and liquids as steam or splash from these items could cause severe burns.

In addition to safe cooking tips, McCoy offered ways to decrease the chances of fire for those who have Christmas trees.

“All trees need to be at least 3 feet from any heat source,” McCoy said. “A heat source could be a fireplace, radiator, candle, heat vents or lights. When choosing a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and needles don’t fall off when touched. On live trees make sure there is water in the stand and you add water daily.”

McCoy said lighting is the same for both live and artificial trees. 

“Never use candles,” McCoy said. “Only use lights that have a label of a recognized testing laboratory. Remember some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.”

McCoy said leaving lights on when they can’t be monitored is a big no-no.

“Blow out candles when you leave a room or go to bed,” McCoy said. “Always turn off Christmas lights when you leave your house or go to bed. Not doing so could lead to a fire.”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.