DC Fire chief explains keys to preventing Thanksgiving cooking fires

Thanksgiving is a time to show off your chef skills, but all that cooking and baking means more risk for kitchen fires.

According to D.C. Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly, nationally, Thanksgiving is a peak date for home cooking fires, with more than three times the daily average for such incidents.

Donnelly, speaking at a news conference on holiday safety on Monday, said people need to remember the basics:

  • Never leave food that is cooking unattended.
  • Don’t keep flammable items, such as towels, oven mitts, food packaging and wooden utensils, near a hot stove.
  • Don’t cook while sleepy or otherwise impaired.

He also said parents should keep kids at least 3 feet away from the stove or any area where hot food is being handled.

If a small grease fire starts, slide a lid over the pan to smother the flame, turn off the burner and leave the pan covered until it completely cools. Donnelly also stressed to never pour water on a grease fire.

In case of a larger cooking fire, Donnelly said leave the kitchen, close the door behind you to try to contain the fire, and then get out of the house and call 911.

“Let the men and women of D.C. fire and EMS do their jobs, while you and your families are safely outside,” Donnelly said. “Things can be replaced but you can’t.”

Donnelly also pleaded with the public to check and test their smoke alarms as soon as possible. He said there were no working smoke alarms present in half the homes where someone died in a fire this year in D.C.

Twelve people died in fires in the District since the start of 2021.

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