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As Montgomery County residents get ready to welcome in Thanksgiving season with turkeys and putting the finishing touches on household favorite dishes such as mac and cheese and sweet potatoes, fire officials urge exercising caution when cooking.

“Unattended cooking is the leading cause of residential fires,” said County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein in a release put out by the fire department on Nov. 15.

Fire officials shared tips with the public to help prevent fires while cooking during this holiday season:

  1. Stay alert and be in the kitchen when using the stove top. Make sure to use a timer. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a minute, ensure the stove is turned off.
  2. Keep anything flammable at least three feet away from stoves, toaster ovens or other heat sources. This includes potholders, food packaging, dish towels, paper and plastic bags, and other materials that can catch fire.
  3. Don’t pour water on a grease fire as this can cause the fire to spread. If a range-top fire does occur, make sure to turn off the burner, put on oven mitts and smother the flames by cautiously sliding a lid or a cookie sheet onto the pan. Keep the lid in place until the pan or pot has cooled.
  4. Clean cooking surfaces regularly to prevent grease buildup, which can ignite fires.
  5. To prevent clothing from encountering burners and catching fire, wear short, tight-fitting sleeves when cooking.
  6. Ensure child safety by keeping children away from hot surfaces, liquids or other hazards. Don’t hold children when cooking or carrying hot drinks or food items.
  7. Microwaves and kitchen appliances should be plugged directly into an outlet. Don’t use extension cords for cooking appliances since they can overload the circuit and cause fires.
  8. Double-check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the house. Ensure all other appliances are turned off and candles and smoking materials are safely extinguished.
  9. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and test these alarms monthly. Change batteries annually or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Apps Bichu reports on growth and justice. She can be reached at apps.bichu@bethesdamagazine.com