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Follow these steps to make your kitchen a fire-free zone

SPRINGFIELD — The kitchen is the place where family and friends love to gather, but it is also the setting of more fires than any other room in the house.
Cooking is the number one cause of home fires in this country and during the holidays, the American Red Cross wants everyone to be aware of steps they should take to avoid a fire while cooking.
  • Start by not wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking. Never leave cooking food unattended — stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. Other safety steps include:
    • Check food regularly while cooking and remain in the home while cooking. Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
    • Keep the kids away from the cooking area. Enforce a “kid-free zone” and make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
    • Keep anything that can catch fire — pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains — away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
    • Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
    • Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.
    • Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
    • Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.
    The Red Cross responded to more than 62,960 home fires during the 2011 fiscal year. House fires are the worst disaster threat to families in the United States. To learn how to prevent a fire in your home and how to keep members of your household safe, you can download The Red Cross Fire Prevention and Safety Checklist at www.redcross.org on how to be fire safe over the holidays, how to avoid home heating fires, candle safety, proper use of smoke alarms and teaching your children what to do in the event of a fire.
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