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Safety key priority when cooking Thanksgiving feast

IRONTON — As Lawrence County families prepare their Thanksgiving meals today; safety officials are urging those professional, amateur and even once-a-year cooks to be fire safe in the kitchen when preparing the bird and all the trimmings.

“Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires in Ohio, and more than 80 percent of the residential fires on Thanksgiving Day and 30 percent on Christmas Day are cooking related,” said Interim State Fire Marshal Donald C. Cooper. “I urge all Ohioans to use common sense when cooking this holiday season so that you may have a joyful holiday gathering.”

Fire statistics show that Thanksgiving Day is the leading day for home cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Firefighters responded to nearly 1,300 home fires involving cooking equipment on Thanksgiving in 2008, roughly three times the daily average of cooking fires.

The NFPA says 50 percent of all fires on Thanksgiving start in the kitchen and warns residents to never leave cooking unattended, even for a few minutes.

Also adding to the fire threat is the amount of food that is being prepared in kitchens, many times by inexperienced or busy cooks. Children in the kitchen also pose a risk to increase fire dangers, the NFPA said.

Cooper and the NFPA suggests the following safety tips for a safe Thanksgiving in the kitchen to avoid your feast from going up in flames:

Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, broiling or boiling food.

If you must leave the room, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.

Be on alert! If you are sleepy of have consumed alcohol, do not use the stove or stovetop.

Have a safety zone and keep children and pets three feet away from the stove and oven.

Turn pot handles inward to reduce the risk that pots with hot contents will be knocked over.

Never hold a small child while cooking.

Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.

Keep potholders, oven mitts, towels and anything else that can burn away from your stovetop.

Clean up food and grease from burners and the stovetop.

If you must use a turkey fryer, keep the fryer outside in view when it is on and keep it away from buildings and other structures, such as garages, carports and decks. The turkey should be thawed prior to frying. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Keep an ABC multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. Water and grease are a dangerous combination and could cause hot grease to splatter.

In addition to using caution in the kitchen, Cooper encourages Lawrence County residents to have a working smoke detector installed on every level of the home and inside each bedroom or sleeping area. Each member of the household should know the home fire escape plan and practice it twice a year.

Also, holiday guests should be made aware of the escape plan and the location of any fire extinguishers in case there is an emergency.

Happy Thanksgiving and bon appetit!