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Staying Fire Safe When Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The numbers are always alarming and will get your attention.

House fires, mostly starting in the kitchen, increase 300% on Thanksgiving Day. It is the single worst day of the year for house fires and there is a central cause.

It's not just about turkey deep fryers catching fire, house fires of all types spike on Thanksgiving Day.

It's the last thing anyone wants to see while cooking Thanksgiving dinner.

"I've been to my fair share of Thanksgiving-related fires and prefer not to," said Brian Kokkila.

Kokkila is the assistant fire chief in Pittsburgh and Sharon Cooksey is with Kidde, the fire protection company.

"Leading causes – unattended cooking," Cooksey said. "So, you know, you have a robust gathering, the doorbell rings, and people are coming in and out. There's just a lot going on, which is why we strongly recommend that everyone stay in the kitchen when they're cooking."

"We've got multiple burners going, people are frantic," Kokkila added.

A demonstration by the Beaver Falls Fire Department illustrated how a small fire can turn into a big fire in no time.

"The fire is going to double in intensity every minute," Kokkila said.

So, realistically, you want to prevent it from even getting started.

"Get everything away from your hot cooking appliances that are potentially flammable," Cooksey recommends.

"You're going to have hand towels, dish towels, paper towels, flying all over the play," Kokkila explains. "I know what my kitchen looks like on Thanksgiving and it's insane."

Your clothing is also possibly a hazard and wearing long sleeves is not recommended.

"That reduces the risk of accidentally catching your clothing on fire," Cooksey said.

So, what to do if a pan catches fire?

"We want to smother that, we want to cover it with a lid of a pot or cookie sheet," Kokkila said.

If your plan is to douse the flames, do not use water – that will make it worse. The best course of action is to use a kitchen-rated fire extinguisher.

"Pull the pin and aim the extinguisher or the nozzle or the hose, squeeze the handle, and sweep at the base of the fire," Kokkila said.

That extinguisher should be ready behind you and within reach.

"We do not want you to have to reach over a flame to get to the very tool that you need to help put that fire out," Cooksey said.

Before you get to cooking, the experts say to check the extinguisher carefully. They do have expiration dates and that date should be stamped onto the extinguisher.

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