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Tips for avoiding home cooking fires this holiday season

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Thanksgiving fire 01

An untended frying pan popping with overheating grease is one of the most dangerous ways to start a fire anytime, but most fires start around the Thanksgiving holiday season through Christmas and even the new year.

The holidays are a time for family gatherings, good food, and sadly, sometimes holiday tragedies. Since the beginning of 2015, there have been 76 cooking fires in Springfield. At 22 percent, cooking fires are the leading cause of structure fires in Springfield. Most fires could have been avoided. To protect your family and home this holiday season, follow these safety tips:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
  • Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
    Keep children away from the stove.
  • Keep combustibles at least 3 feet away from cooking equipment at all times.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires each year, followed closely by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

In addition to significant damage, cooking fires are also to blame for many injuries. In fact, three of every five (58 percent) reported non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occurred when the victims tried to fight the fire themselves. If you feel the fire is small enough to try and put out yourself, make sure you know the proper way to do it. For a small fire in a pan on the stove, use an oven mitt to slide the lid over it and turn off the burner. Leave the lid on until it is completely cool. Never use water to extinguish a stove top fire! For a small fire in the oven, turn off the heat and keep the door closed until the fire goes out. Finally, for a small microwave fire, turn it off and unplug it. Keep the door closed until the fire is completely out.

The Springfield fire Department also recommends keeping a fire extinguisher nearby to put out small and contained fires. To use a fire extinguisher, remember the acronym PASS. Pull the pin. Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire. Squeeze the handle. Sweep back and forth. Before using an extinguisher, make sure no one needs help evacuating and someone has called 911. Once the fire is out, exit the building and wait for the fire department to arrive to ensure the fire did not reignite.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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