Holiday safety: American Red Cross offers 5 ways to prevent cooking fires

Cooking fire

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- While the coronavirus may have changed many of our holiday gatherings, the need to protect ourselves from cooking fires continues.

Typically, Christmas is one of the peak days for cooking fires, which is the top cause of home fires in the U.S. Most often, these emergencies are caused by unattended cooking — a common behavior shared by nearly 70 percent of Americans, as shown in a national American Red Cross survey earlier this year.

To help keep you and your loved ones safe, the American Red Cross urges everyone to follow these safety tips:

• Keep an eye on what you fry! Never leave cooking food unattended. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• Move items that can burn away from the stove. This includes dishtowels, bags, boxes, paper and curtains. Also keep children and pets at least three feet away.
• Avoid wearing loose clothing while cooking.
• When frying food, turn the burner off if you see smoke or if the grease starts to boil. Carefully remove the pan from the burner.
• Keep a pan lid or a cookie sheet nearby. Use it to cover the pan if it catches on fire. This will put out the fire. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.

The American Red Cross also reminds people to test their smoke alarms monthly and practice their home fire escape plan until everyone can get out in less than two minutes — the amount of time you may have to get out of a burning home before it’s too late.

From Dec. 14 through Dec. 21, 14 incidents took place across Chicagoland area, including in Chicago Heights, Northlake, Oswego, and Zion with 12 of these home fires occurring in Chicago.

The Red Cross assisted 26 adults and seven children affected with a safe place to stay, health services, disaster mental health services, financial assistance and information to help them in their recovery.

If you need assistance after a home fire or disaster, please call the American Red Cross dispatch line: 1-877-597-0747.

Visit redcross.org/fire for more information, including an escape plan to practice with your family.