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By Nigel Chiwaya
Pay close attention while prepping your turkey, and exercise extreme care when setting up your holiday decorations. Statistically, you’ll be playing with fire.
There are more in-home fires during the holiday season than at any other time of the year, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Thanksgiving is the single worst day for fires.
An estimated 2,090 home fires were reported to fire departments around the United States on Thanksgiving 2016, according to the association. That’s more than twice the daily average for the rest of the year. Of the Thanksgiving fires, three-quarters were cooking-related.
On average, Thanksgiving fires killed five people, injured 25 and caused $19 million in property loss from 2014 to 2016, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Distractions are the main cause of cooking fires, said the NFPA’s research manager for fire analysis, Marty Ahrens.
“One of the things on Thanksgiving is that you’ve got a lot more cooking going on and a lot more company coming over,” Ahrens said. “It’s so easy to get distracted.”
But it’s not just Thanksgiving Day. Reports of fires also rise on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and even Super Bowl Sunday.
“When people are gathered, we want to talk to them. We want to get together with them, and we get pulled away from the kitchen,” said Minnesota’s state fire marshal, Bruce West. “It’s so quick. A fire in the kitchen can happen in an instant.”
Firefighters in Minnesota responded to 96 fires last Thanksgiving Day weekend, West said.
While most of them were cooking related, Christmas and New Year’s fires tend to be caused by candles igniting decorations, Ahern said.
To stay safe during the holidays, experts suggest keeping combustible items like aprons and towels away from flames; installing, or checking, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; and paying attention while cooking.
“You could be frying bacon,” West said. “You turn around and that grease starts on fire.”