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Make Safety an Ingredient in Holiday Cooking

Amica Insurance, local firefighters offer five tips to help stay safe while cooking holiday meals.

’Tis the season for preparing holiday feasts, and Amica Insurance has some tips to make sure you stay safe in the kitchen.

“Cooking for family and friends is synonymous with the holiday season,” said Lisa St. Onge, an assistant vice president with Amica Insurance. “And while it’s certainly a time to celebrate, we need to remember that cooking also poses a fire safety risk.”

Firefighters respond to an average of 155,000 cooking fires a year, according to federal fire statistics. About 460 people die each year as a result of these fires, which also result in nearly 5,000 injuries and $724 million in property damage.

The United States Fire Administration reports that the number of cooking fires increases on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and urges people not to become “a cooking fire casualty.”

That’s why Amica Insurance is sharing these five cooking safety tips from the USFA:

  • Make sure stove tops, burners, ovens, microwaves and other cooking appliances are clean and working properly. Don’t use extension cords for microwaves and other cooking appliances.
  • Keep flammable materials, such as potholders, oven mitts, towels and cooking utensils, away from the stovetop. Avoid loose-fitting clothing that could catch fire from a gas flame or electric burner.
  • Don’t leave food unattended on a stove top or in the oven – especially if you’re frying, grilling or broiling food. Turn off the burners, even if you’re just leaving the kitchen for a short time.
  • Never leave the house with food cooking on the stove or in the oven.
  • Stay alert. Avoid cooking if you’ve been drinking alcohol or taking medication that makes you drowsy.

“Even with these precautions, cooking fires can still occur,” St. Onge said. “That’s why it’s important to stay in the kitchen while cooking, since fast action can help prevent a fire from spreading.”

  • Keep an oven mitt and lid handy, in case a fire breaks out.
  • If a small grease fire starts in a pan, carefully place the lid on the pan and turn off the burner. Leave the lid on the pan until it is cool, to prevent the fire from starting again.
  • If a fire occurs in an oven or microwave, turn it off and keep the door closed until the fire is completely out. Don’t use the oven or microwave until it’s inspected for damage.

“If you have any doubts about whether the fire is out or whether it’s spreading, get out of the house immediately and call 911,” St. Onge said. “The most important thing is to make sure everyone is safe.”

Lt. Tim Burke of the Dexter Area Fire Department said cooking-related fires are not a common occurence in Dexter.

"We've had a few careless cooks, but nothing major," he said. "Our biggest concern is when people start putting up their Christmas trees and the trees dry out causing fires."

Burke said he encourages anyone with a live Christmas tree to water it regularly and check all chords and lights for damage.

"The one thing you don't want to do is plug everything into one electrical outlet," Burke said. "That can lead to fire hazards."

For questions on proper fire prevention practices, contact the Dexter Area Fire Department at 734-426-4500 or the Chelsea Area Fire Authority 734-475-8755.

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