SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Georgia has the fourth most home fires in the nation annually.
According to a report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home cooking fires swell by 250 percent on Thanksgiving and 59 percent on Christmas Day in comparison to the daily average.
The Georgia Red Cross is urging people across the state to help prevent cooking fires this holiday season.
“In general, we’re seeing an increase of people cooking at home because everyone is at home and during the holidays, people are cooking even more,” Executive Director of the Red Cross Southeast Georgia Chapter Maria Center said.
“So, that’s why we’re seeing cooking fires which are the leading cause of fires in the United States,” she added.
Each November and December in the last four years, the Georgia Red Cross has responded to more than 2,000 fires and has helped nearly 10,000 displaced people.
Center says most of these emergencies are due to unattended stovetops.
“Never leave any food unattended if you’re cooking,” she advised. “If you need to step away for a minute, go ahead and step away but turn the stove off and you can go back.”
She also urges those doing the cooking to move all items away from the stove and to keep children and pets at least 3 feet away.
“Anything that is fabric or anything that could ignite, you want to make sure curtains, boxes, bags, and paper or anything that could set on fire,” Center said.
The best way to be prepared, she says, is to test your smoke alarms monthly and practice your fire escape plan.
“People don’t realize it, but you only have two minutes to escape,” Center said. “They think they have more time or they might go back in and try to retrieve something. But unfortunately, that two minutes goes by fast.”
She also advises avoiding wearing loose clothing while cooking and keeping a cookie sheet nearby in case you need to stifle flames from a grease fire.
“There were two fires in Glynn County within 30 minutes of each other, and eight people were displaced from their homes, and on the 24th, the 26th, and the 28th of November, there were fires in Glynn County,” Center said. “We are seeing an increase.”
You can also download the free Red Cross Emergency App by searching “American Red Cross” in app stores.
If you’d like to make a donation to help provide necessities like emergency shelter, hot meals and blankets for families in need for the holidays, visit redcross.org/gift.