FORT GIBSON – From 2014 to 2018, the National Fire Protection Association reported that U.S. fire departments were called to an estimated average of 172,900 home structure fires related to cooking each year. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the number of home fires caused by cooking peaks to an average of 470 fires each day.

"These fires are tragic because they result in property damage, displacement of families, injury, and even death," said fire damage restoration specialist Carl Kelley of Servpro of Muskogee/McIntosh counties and Tahlequah. "The thing that compounds the tragedy, though, is that there are some simple steps everyone can take to reduce the chance of a cooking fire."

Kelley urges homeowners to consider these basic guidelines for cooking safety:

• Never leave food unattended on a range or cooktop. That's where 61 percent of home cooking fires start.

• Never cook on the stove top when you are sleepy or intoxicated.

• Use a timer to remind yourself that you are cooking.

• Keep anything flammable – potholders, wooden utensils, towels, curtains, food wrapping – away from the stovetop.

• If you must leave the kitchen for any period of time, turn off the stove.

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