LFD, Red Cross give cooking safety tips

Whether you are a gourmet cook or you could burn water, local experts have a few ideas for how to make sure that your Thanksgiving does not include a visit from the fire department.

Thanksgiving is one of the biggest occasions for cooking in the U.S., but that increased time in the kitchen requires a little extra caution in order to ensure that your holidays remain merry and bright in the best ways possible.

“During the holiday season, and especially during Thanksgiving, people need to be very, very mindful of their cooking surroundings and make sure that if they are cooking, they stay in the kitchen — especially if they are cooking on the stove top,” said Lt. Chris Taylor, of the LaGrange Fire Department. “Safe zones (need to be) set up inside the kitchen or cooking area away from children, which need to be a minimum of three feet around equipment.”

Items like kitchen towels and even decorative items are flammable, so remaining aware of where those items are in relation to heat sources like the stove is just as essential as making sure that your turkey is properly basted. It is generally best to minimize contact between those flammable items and heat sources.

“Don’t wear lose or dangling clothing while you are cooking, and never ever leave your food unattended while it is cooking,” said Connie Hensler, the executive director of the American Red Cross Central Midwest Georgia. “Don’t leave the stove, and be sure to keep your children, your pets or anything that is flammable away from the cooking area and the heat sources.”

Hensler also recommends turning the handles of pots toward the back of the stove to lessen the chances of a small child accidentally pulling a pot on top of themselves. According to Taylor,  heating and electrical fires are also common around the holidays, and while cooking fires tend to be focused around Thanksgiving itself, fires due to flammable and combustible materials near heat sources is something that everyone should remain on the lookout for throughout the winter months.

“They need to be mindful of keeping combustible materials a safe distance away from that heating equipment as well,” Taylor said. “And then electrical, checking for problems with electrical cooking equipment that could cause a problem as well.”

Taylor recommends keeping things like plastics, rubber, clothes, bedding, paper and wood products, as well as flammable liquids and gases away from heat sources. He also reminds residents that medical oxygen is highly flammable and should be kept away from heat sources and open flames.

“The biggest component is making sure that while they are using medical oxygen is that medical oxygen is not in use around combustibles and flammable material like smoking materials and other heat materials and things of that nature because they can create fires,” Taylor said.

The Red Cross and fire department recommends that anyone using a fireplace have it cleaned and checked at least once a year. Both also recommend checking smoke detectors if they were not checked during the time change.

For many, Thanksgiving is also the start date for decorating for Christmas, but decorators should be wary of using too many extension cords since multiple extension cords attached to each other increases the risk of electrical fire. Extension cords should always be attached to a power strip.

The same goes for heaters and extension cords with an added caution on flammable items once again.

“If your home is using a lot of extension cords, make sure that your electrical outlet is safe,” Hensler said.

“Do not connect electrical cords to electrical cords and wrap those around the room. Make sure that you are plugged into a really good outlet like a power strip that is going to turn off if it gets too much connected to it.”