While the coronavirus may have changed many people’s holiday gatherings, the need for protection from cooking fires continues.

The Georgia Red Cross is urging people across the state to enjoy a safe and happy holiday season this year by utilizing five tips to prevent cooking fires, which are the leading cause of home fires across the U.S. 

According to the latest report on home cooking fires released by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the holiday season is the peak for home cooking fires, which swell by 250 percent on Thanksgiving and 59 percent on Christmas Day in comparison to the daily average.

Across the holiday months of November and December for the past four years (2016-2019), the Georgia Red Cross has responded to nearly 2,200 home and apartment fires and has helped over 9,500 people recover from this type of disaster across the state, according to a news release.

Most often, these emergencies are attributed to unattended cooking — a common behavior shared by nearly 70 percent of people, as shown in a national American Red Cross survey earlier this year, according to the release.

Here are five safety tips the Red Cross is offering:

•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 Red Cross also recommends testing smoke alarms monthly and formulating and practicing a home-fire escape plan until everyone is able to get out in less than two minutes.  

Visit redcross.org/fire for more information, including an escape plan to practice with your family. You can also download the free Red Cross Emergency app (search “American Red Cross” in app stores).

For COVID-19 safety tips, visit redcross.org/coronavirus.

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