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Fire officials offer Thanksgiving fire safety tips

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As West Virginians get ready for cooking this holiday season, fire officials are asking them to keep in mind the dangers that come along with it.

The top three days for cooking fires are Thanksgiving, Christmas day and Christmas Eve.

The West Virginia State Fire Marshal's Office said cooking fires lead the list of categories for top fires in the state.

There were 776 fires attributed to cooking last year, contributing to over 20 percent of causes of fires.

The National Fire Protection Association said according to national statistics from 2007 to 2011, house fires involving cooking equipment were responsible for two of every five fires reported. Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fire injuries.

"The number of cooking fires is three times the average on Thanksgiving and more than one and a half times the averages on Christmas Eve and Christmas day," said Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of outreach and advocacy. "As people go to great lengths to prepare holiday meals, following a few basic safety tips when cooking will reduce their chances of having a fire."

According to date from nationwide fire departments, crews responded to an average of 156,600 home structure fires that involved cooking equipment per year. Those fires caused an average of 400 civilian deaths, 5,080 civilian fire injuries and $853 million in direct property damage.

Overall, cooking equipment caused 43 percent of reported home fires, 38 percent of home fire injuries and 16 percent of home fire deaths from 2007 to 2011.

While cooking during Thanksgiving, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said the threat of fires in the kitchen triples on Thanksgiving day.

From 2009 to 2011, there were an average of about 1,300 cooking fires on Thanksgiving alone in the nation. More than three times the average daily rate from 2009 through 2011 of about 400 cooking fires a day.

"As fire safety experts have said for years, ‘Stand by your pan!'" said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. "If you are frying, grilling or broiling food, stay in the kitchen. Not following this advice can be a recipe for disaster on Thanksgiving and throughout the year."

Cooking fires have accounted for nearly 150,000 fires (more than 40 percent of all annual unintentional residential fires) each year from 2009 through 2011. Unattended cooking is the top cause of cooking fires. Cooking fires also caused the most home fire-related injuries, with an estimated annual average of  nearly 27 percent, or 3,450 injuries each year.

Safety Tips:

-To stay safe in the kitchen, avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves near ranges or ovens, watch children closely so they don't come into contact with cooking food or hot stovetops, turn pan handles toward the back of the stove to prevent kids and others from spilling a pan's scalding contents onto themselves. 

-In the event of a fire, call 911. Cover a pan with a lid to smother the flames. Never pour water or flour on a fire. That can make it worse. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

-Never use a turkey fryer in a garage or on a porch. Don't overfill the oil or leave the turkey fryer unattended.

Since 2003, there have been more than 125 turkey fryer-related fires, burns, explosions, smoke inhalations, or laceration incidents reported to CPSC staff. There were 55 injuries among these incidents, but none were fatal. For the incidents reporting a dollar value for the property loss, the total loss reported was around $6 million.

Additional incidents involving turkey fryers may have occurred that were not reported to CPSC.