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Stay safe in the kitchen this Thanksgiving

Medford Fire Department provides tips on cooking that could reduce fire risk
Roasted thanksgiving turkey on restaurant table with wine

Kitchen activity is heating up now that the holiday season has arrived.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that Thanksgiving is the leading day of the year for home cooking fires — “by far.”

“The spike in cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day can largely be attributed to the fact that it often involves cooking multiple dishes at once, along with lots of distractions that make it easy to lose sight of what’s on the stove and in the oven,” according to the nonprofit organization.

Samantha Metheny, deputy fire marshal and public educator with the Medford Fire Department, has provided fire safety tips on how to cook safely.

“Stay in the kitchen,” she urged. “This is so we are keeping track of what we are doing.”

It’s especially important when frying, broiling and grilling to not leave the food on top of the stove. If you need to walk away, turn off the heat until you can return to resume the cooking.

For longer cooking tasks, such as simmering soups on the stove or roasting meat in the oven, Metheny recommends using a timer to let you know when food is done so it doesn’t burn if you are in another room of your home doing chores, watching television or dozing off.

This safety information applies throughout the year, she noted.

Ways to prevent cooking fires
  • Keep children away from the oven: Create a three-feet buffer between the stove as well as other cooking and preparation areas, and young people.
  • Turn pot handles inward: This is not only to keep children from reaching them but also ensures that adults are less likely to catch their arm on the hot pan so no one is likely to accidentally send a hot pan flying off the stove.
  • Keep stove top clear: Don’t place oven mitts, dish towels, wooden spoons, food packaging, paper towels or cookbooks close to the stove top because these items could end up catching fire.
  • Think about your attire: Long sleeves should be securely rolled up and long hair tied back because either could come in contact with cooking elements and catch fire. The best items to wear while cooking are short-sleeved tops and close-fitting items.
How to react to a fire breaking out in the kitchen
  • Pan on the stove: Keep a lid nearby to cover the fire and smother it, then turn the burner off. Once the fire is out, leave the pan alone until it’s cool. Trying to remove a hot pan could cause injury and reignite a fire.
  • Food in the oven: Turn the oven off and keep the oven door closed.
  • If your efforts don’t succeed and the fire begins to spread: Get out of the kitchen, close the door behind you and call 911. Closing the door helps to keep the fire from spreading rapidly.

Metheny also provided a couple of tips about use of candles, which is a common decoration and lighting technique — especially during holiday meals and gatherings.

Firefighters recommend a flameless candle, which uses electricity or batteries for power and a flame-shaped bulb instead of a lighted candle.

However, if you prefer real candles, Metheny recommends using a short glass container with the flame burning below the top of the glass. Shorter candles are also less likely to topple or be knocked over than tall ones.

  • Don’t leave candles unattended: Put them out before you leave. It’s recommended not to leave the area where a candle is burning.
  • Don’t place candles near potentially flammable items, such as curtains, napkins or other decorations that could burn.
  • Don’t put a candle near a window or other source of moving air because the draft will push the flames.