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Don't Let Your Feast Go Up in Flames: Preventing Thanksgiving Fires

By Home Mortgage Zillow

The countdown to turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie has begun. Thanksgiving’s arrival means many of us are scouring the closet for pants with stretchy waistbands so we can prepare to feast.

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The holiday is all about giving thanks and spending a day with loved ones. But cooking the festive Thanksgiving meal can lead to fires. And fires can lead to injuries, deaths, or property loss, so make sure to follow some safety suggestions for this holiday.

Check the stats

Thanksgiving Day is the pinnacle of home-cooking fires, accounting for about three times as many fires as any other day of the year, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Each year between 2011 and 2013, Thanksgiving Day produced an average of 2,100 residential building fires, resulting in $28 million in property damage, 50 injuries, and 10 deaths, according to a report produced by the U.S. Fire Administration.

What causes most Thanksgiving fires? More than 71 percent of fires were attributed to cooking, and the highest percentage of fires (24.6 percent) occurred between noon and 3 p.m., the report said.

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Eyes on the prize

Er, turkey. Leaving food unattended while it was cooking was the leading cause of Thanksgiving cooking fires, according to the NFPA. You’ll want to visit with your guests during this holiday, but it’s far more important to pay attention to what’s in the oven or on the stovetop so that you don’t become a statistic.

Also, assign guests items to bring for the meal. Having a potluck-style Thanksgiving dinner will prevent you from doing all the cooking, so you won’t be trying to cook multiple dishes at once. Giving your undivided attention to one dish at a time will help to keep food from burning and starting fires.

And when you want to chat with your guests while you’re cooking, call them into the kitchen with you. Leaving the room while food is in the oven or on the burners is a risky move that makes your home insurance provider sweat.

Don’t wear loose clothing while cooking

Let’s set the scene: You’re wearing a baggy sweater while sauteing vegetables in oil, and you divert your attention to talk to a family member. A fire ignites, and, in a panic, you attempt to move the pan to the sink to run water over it. When you move the pan, your loose sleeve connects with the flames and, in a flash, your entire arm is on fire.

There are several things wrong with this scenario. The first is that you should avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes while cooking, as it puts you at an increased risk to catch fire and get injured.

Secondly, never move a pot that’s on fire, or try to put out a grease or oil fire with water. It’s best to put a lid on top of the pot to smother the fire, leave the pot where it is, and turn the heat off when the fire has been tamed.

And we won’t even mention getting distracted while cooking.

Keep fire hazards away from the stove

Just like ill-fitting clothing is a hazard that can easily ignite, so are things like potholders, wooden utensils, towels, and flowers. Keep these items away from burners and the oven to reduce the chances of having a kitchen fire.

It’s also important to keep pets out of the kitchen. Say you just turned off the burner, but Fido comes sniffing around, puts his paws up on the counter, and accidentally slides a towel on top of the still-hot burner without you noticing, causing it to be engulfed in flames. Avoid this type of scenario by keeping the dog in a gated room and by keeping other hazards at bay.

Know the biggest risks

Frying puts you at the greatest risk for home fires. So if you’re deep-frying the turkey this year, take extra precautions.

  • Keep the fryer away from the house and on even ground. The fryer should be set up more than 10 feet away from the home, and on level ground to keep the oil even.
  • Completely thaw and dry the turkey first. Only fry a turkey after it has been fully thawed and dried off to reduce the possibility of splattering grease, which can ignite fires.
  • Keep children and pets away, and have a fire extinguisher nearby. The last thing you want on Thanksgiving Day is for a child or pet to knock over the fryer and get injured.

If you experience a Thanksgiving Day fire

The majority of non-fatal Thanksgiving Day fire injuries occurred when people tried to fight the fires themselves. If your home catches fire when you’re preparing Thanksgiving dinner, and you don’t have a fire extinguisher on hand, just get everyone out of the house.

Keep yourself, your family, and your guests safe. You can call 911 when everyone has evacuated.

The good news is that property damage and liability coverage for incidents involving fires are typically eligible for coverage under standard home insurance policies. That’s something to be thankful for.

More from Zillow:
Set a Fabulous Table for Fall
10 Ways to Get Your Kitchen Ready for Thanksgiving
Insuring Your Home Against Fire Damage

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.