Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States.
The National Fire Protection Agency cites that in 2010, cooking was involved in an estimated 156,400 home structure fires and caused an overall 44% of home fires that were reported to U.S. fire departments.
During Fire Prevention Month, the American Red Cross suggests using several safety steps to avoid a fire while cooking. The cook should not wear loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking. They should also stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food and never leave cooking food unattended. If the cook 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 as a reminder that the stove or oven is on.
Keep children 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 the stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Contact the local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.
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 the kitchen, on each level of the home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.
The Red Cross also accepts donations to support American Red Cross disaster relief programs. Gifts help the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org or call 800-RED-CROSS. Contributions may also be sent to the local American Red Cross chapter in Jamestown at 325 E. Fourth St., in Olean at 452 N. Barry St., or in Wellsville at 112 N. Main St.
The American Red Cross of Southwestern New York is a United Way agency.