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Keeping Thanksgiving Day safe and fire free

An estimated 2,000 Thanksgiving Day fires occur each year in homes across the country. An estimated average of five deaths, 25 injuries and $21 million in property loss occur each year as the result of those fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

"We all think of Thanksgiving as a time for family, good food and football, but it's also prime time for cooking fires," said Janel Schmitz, Executive Director at the American Red Cross West Dakota Chapter.

Dickinson Fire Chief Robert Sivak said the possibility of a Thanksgiving fire happening in Dickinson or any other southwest North Dakota town definitely exists.

"We have had those types of fires before," Sivak said, adding he did not know statistics off hand.

Cooking is the leading cause of Thanksgiving Day fires, with 71 percent starting on or near the stove, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Most fires occur in the afternoon between noon and 4 p.m., according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Besides cooking, people should be aware that open flames are another cause of Thanksgiving Day fires, said Sivak.

"Be cautious when using candles, especially when they are near other decorations, never leave an open flame unattended," Sivak said.

To keep Thanksgiving fire-free, the American Red cross offers these nine tips:

1. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If leaving the kitchen even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.

2. If simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer as a reminder that food is cooking.

3. Be alert. Sleeplessness, medication and alcohol can cause drowsiness.

4. Keep anything that can catch fire -- potholders, wooden utensils, food wrappers, towels or curtains -- away from the stove top.

5. Make sure sleeves are out of the way when cooking. Wear tighter fitting clothing with shorter sleeves.

6. Have a "kid-free zone" of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

7. Never hold a child while cooking, drinking or carrying hot foods or liquids.

8. Turn the handles of pots and pans on the stove inward to avoid accidents.

9. Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby counter tops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.

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