Cooking safety tips to prevent house fires this Thanksgiving

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - Thanksgiving is all about food and family, but preparing holiday meals can lead to disaster. The kitchen is the setting of more fires than any other room in the house, and cooking is the leading cause of house fires. The American Red Cross has safety steps to use while preparing the Thanksgiving feast.

"We want folks to have a safe holiday," said Ken Robinson, regional COO of the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio. "We have steps they can follow to avoid ruining their holiday with a cooking fire."

Cooks should start by not wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves. Never leave cooking food unattended – stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If someone must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, he or she should turn off the stove.

Other safety steps include:

  • Check food regularly and remain in the home while cooking. Use a timer as a reminder the stove or oven is on.
  • Keep kids away from the cooking area. Enforce a "kid-free zone" and make them stay at least 3 feet away from the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire - pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels and curtains - away from the stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  • Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  • Purchase a fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen. Contact the local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.
  • Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  • Install a smoke alarm near the kitchen, on each level of the home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also offers the following safety guidelines for anyone planning to use a turkey fryer this season:

  • Keep fryer in full view while burner is on.
  • Place fryer in an open area away from all walls, fences, or other structures.
  • Never use in, on, or under a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, or any structure that can catch fire.
  • Raise and lower food slowly to reduce splatter and avoid burns.
  • Cover bare skin when adding or removing food.
  • Check the oil temperature frequently.
  • If oil begins to smoke, immediately turn gas supply off.
  • If a fire occurs, immediately call 911. Do not attempt to extinguish the fire with water.

For safest operation, CPSC staff recommends consumers follow these guidelines as they prepare to use a turkey fryer:

  • Make sure there is at least 2 feet of space between the liquid propane tank and fryer burner.
  • Place the liquid propane gas tank and fryer so that any wind blows the heat of the fryer away from the gas tank.
  • Center the pot over the burner on the cooker.
  • Completely thaw - USDA suggests 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds - and dry turkey before cooking. Partially frozen and/or wet turkeys can produce excessive hot oil splatter when added to the oil.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions to determine the proper amount of oil to add and how to do so safely.

Another helpful step is to download the Red Cross First Aid app, which puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in someone's hand. Available for iPhone and Android devices, the official Red Cross First Aid app gives instant access to the information needed to handle the most common first aid emergencies. With videos, interactive quizzes and simple, step-by-step advice, it's never been easier to know first aid.

House fires are the worst disaster threat to families in the United States. The Northwest Ohio Region assisted more than 500 families after home fires last year. To learn how to prevent a fire in the home and how to keep members of the household safe, download The Red Cross Fire Prevention and Safety Checklist.

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