MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Cooking food and heating homes are staples of the winter holiday season– and are also the leading causes of residential fires and fire deaths in Minnesota.

The extra warmth means we should take extra precautions to prevent fires, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety warns.

Last year’s winter holiday season caused a record number of fire deaths, the State Fire Marshal Division said. In November and December 2017, 17 people died in Minnesota fires– the highest number in those two months since 1995.

Nine of those deaths happened between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

“We’re being pulled in different directions, so fire prevention and safety can take a back seat,” State Fire Marshal Bruce West said. “Not putting safety first could have tragic consequences for you, your family or your holiday guests.”

West reminds us to stay safe during our festivities by doing the following:

Cooking

  • Always attend to food on the stove while cooking.
  • Use a timer when using the oven for a long period of time.
  • Smother grease fires with a pan lid. Turn the burner off and do not move the pan.
  • Keep flammables like towels and aprons at least three feet from the stove.
  • Use extreme caution when deep-frying a turkey, and never do it indoors.

Heating

  • Keep space heaters three feet away from flammables.
  • Never leave a space heater unattended, even when sleeping.
  • Do not use an extension cord for space heaters. Only plug them into a wall, and unplug them when not in use.
  • Do not use space heaters to dry wet clothing.

Holiday decorations

  • Keep flammables three feet away from candles and never leave them unattended.
  • Keep holiday decorations, which are often flammable, three feet away from any heat source.
  • Do not burn gift wrap in a fireplace. It can burn too quickly and hot to be controlled.
  • Keep your holiday tree watered. Dry trees are extremely combustible.

West also says to keep an eye out for nonfunctional smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Test your alarms at least monthly and before holiday gatherings.

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