A home-cooked holiday meal is a time-honored tradition that millions of people enjoy each year. Unfortunately, though, the act of cooking those meals can lead to something much less joyous: a holiday kitchen fire.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking fires are the top cause of both home fires and injuries in the home. And, the most likely time of year for them to happen? You guessed it: the holidays.
In 2013 (the most recent year in the organization’s statistics), Thanksgiving Day was the worst day for cooking fires. Christmas Day and Christmas Eve were second and third on the list, respectively.
How to Help Keep Your Kitchen Safe
Here are four safety tips from the NFPA and the American Red Cross to keep in mind when you’re preparing that holiday feast — or any meal, for that matter — along with some advice on how to respond if (despite your best efforts) a kitchen fire breaks out.
Stay alert while cooking. That means staying there while you’re cooking, too. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. More than 40 percent of people in one survey admitted that they leave the kitchen to talk or text on the phone. Many others skip out to check email, etc. Use timers and stick around, so you don’t burn your food or your house.
Take particular care when frying. Heat oil slowly to the right temperature, and if you see or smell smoke, turn off the burner and remove the pan immediately — your oil is too hot. Avoid splattering by adding your food to the pot or pan carefully. And, always keep a lid close by while you cook, so you can slide it on if the oil catches fire. Frying that bird? Get turkey deep fryer safety tips.
Keep your environment clean and safe. Keep flammable materials, including paper and plastic items, pot holders, oven mitts, towels and curtains, away from all cooking appliances. Make sure you don’t wear clothing that dangles over your cooking area, and keep kids away as well. Also stay on top of cleaning up grease buildup, which can pose a fire risk. Finally, a smoke alarm should be installed in or near the kitchen, and a fire extinguisher should be readily available.
Make sure everything’s cool. Before you go to bed or leave the house, check to see that all appliances are turned off and that everything, including your pots and pans, has cooled down.
What if There’s a Fire?
If a kitchen fire starts and you cannot control it, the NFPA recommends that you leave immediately. If your kitchen has a door, close it behind you to help prevent the fire from spreading. Call 911 from outside the house.
With a little common sense and a lot of caution, you can help make sure your holidays are warm and cozy — and that the only fire in your home is the one blazing in your fireplace. Here’s to a happy and safe season!
Home Insurance and Fires
Cooking equipment, fireplaces, lightning – the causes of home fires are numerous, and so are the outcomes. While some result in minor surface and smoke damage, others burn a home completely to the ground. It’s important to know how your home insurance would help in such situations. In particular, you want enough coverage to be able to completely rebuild your home to what it was in case it’s destroyed. Talk to an independent agent about whether you have the coverage you want – and enough of it.