When it starts getting cold in Western Pennsylvania, there’s nothing like a warm, home-cooked meal – especially during the holidays. In fact, for many, the holidays are synonymous with food: Thanksgiving turkey, Hanukkah brisket, Christmas ham.
Unfortunately, along with the traditional dishes, some of us accidentally cook up trouble in the kitchen over the holidays. Cooking fires increase dramatically during the holiday season, particularly on Thanksgiving Day, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Here are some of the biggest ways people get themselves into trouble:
• Too much multitasking. In one survey, almost half of the respondents said they leave the kitchen while they’re cooking to talk or text, check email, watch TV and more. The top cause of cooking fires is unattended cooking, according to the NFPA.
• Loads of clutter. Keeping flammable items around heat-generating appliances is another big cause of fires. Do you have packaging or paper items near your stove? How about curtains hanging too low? Those can increase your risk.
• Lack of safety tools. Every home should have a working smoke detector in or near the kitchen, and an easily accessible fire extinguisher.
• Cooking at too high a heat. Often, people will heat things up too quickly, or too much — especially when it comes to frying things in oil. And, some leave the house before things have completely cooled off, which might make for a nasty surprise when they return home.
Of course, no matter what precautions you take, you might still find yourself staring down flames in your kitchen. Here are three things to do:
1. If the fire is in a pan or pot, try putting the lid on. If it’s in your oven, close the door and turn off the heat.
2. If the fire is out of control, or is headed that way, leave immediately.
3. Call 911, but only after you are safely outside.
We hope it doesn’t come to that, but above all, keep yourself safe. Remember, your home can be replaced — and that meal you’re making can be, too. But, you and your loved ones can’t. So, keep your cooking attended, and keep it safe.