Thanksgiving is one of biggest days for cooking fires. Here’s how to stay safe

Firefighters from Genoa-Kingston, Hampshire, Sycamore, Kirkland and DeKalb fight the fire that consumed most of this Genoa home on Thanksgiving in 2014.  The family said the fire started in the garage while they were preparing Thanksgiving dinner.

The Thanksgiving turkey is thawed, hopefully, and home chefs are getting ready to cook the bird.

But don’t wear billowy sleeves while doing so. And keep the cat away from the oven.

According to the Red Cross, Thanksgiving and the day before Thanksgiving are the top two days in the United States when cooking fires occur.

Cooking is the leading cause of house fires and home fire injuries, and the second-leading cause for home fire deaths, the Red Cross said.

Schaumburg Fire Chief Jim Walters said his department is on the streets fielding calls about 20 times a day. Special occasions such as Thanksgiving may increase those numbers.

“Any time there’s a lot of cooking going on, and certainly around the holidays, there seems to be an uptick” in home fires, Walters said.

Just as the Red Cross warns in its list of cooking safety tips, Walters cautions “a big thing” is leaving cooking unattended when boiling, frying or grilling food.

If leaving the kitchen, the Red Cross said, turn off the stove.

The Red Cross issued other precautions for home-cooking safety, particularly handy around Thanksgiving:

• Use a timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on.

• Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.

• Keep children and pets at least 3 feet from cooking areas.

• Keep flammable items such as pot holders, oven mitts, curtains and food packaging away from the stove or other heat-producing appliances.

• Clean cooking surfaces regularly to avoid grease buildup.

• Consider storing a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

• Check the kitchen before going to bed to ensure the stove, oven and all appliances have been turned off.

Deep fryers using hot grease have become more popular for cooking Thanksgiving turkey. It’s a big concern for Walters.

“Obviously, they’re doing that outside, but if not done properly – if they’re doing it on a wood deck and if the turkey is not thawed or if it has water content in it – it could cause a pretty intense grease splatter,” he said.

Walters added another risk to the holiday menu.

“If you’re using candles, keep all combustibles out of the way. Keep them clear of curtains and make sure the surrounding area is clear of combustibles,” Walters said.

The Red Cross recommends families create and practice a fire escape plan.

It also advises installing a smoke alarm near the kitchen, near sleep areas, and on each level of a home. The alarms should be tested monthly and their batteries changed at least once a year.