Sumter Fire Department, S.C. Red Cross share fire safety tips


Thanksgiving Day is mere hours away. It's time to prep the turkey, cure the ham, mash the potatoes and break out your stretchy pants.

While you're at it, let's brush up on some fire safety tips, courtesy of the Red Cross of South Carolina and Lt. Selena Smith, fire prevention specialist with the Sumter Fire Department.

Fire safety awareness should be raised year 'round, but the holiday season needs extra attention. The U.S. Fire Administration reported from 2017 to 2019, an estimated 2,300 residential building fires were reported to fire departments on Thanksgiving Day.

"Home fires are a real threat to South Carolina over the Thanksgiving holiday," said Rod Tolbert, chief executive officer for the Red Cross of South Carolina. "In particular, cooking fires are the No. 1 cause of home fires, and year after year, Thanksgiving is the peak day for these tragedies."

The average number of reported residential building fires on Thanksgiving Day was 2.3 times more than the average number of fires in residential buildings on all other days, the administration said.

"Cooking is the No. 1 cause of residential fires in the United States, and Thanksgiving is surrounded by cooking and fellowship," Smith said. "It is important especially around the holidays when more people are cooking and baking that you talk about safety with each other. That you can have those discussions of who has smoke alarms at your house, does your smoke alarm work, do you have an escape plan? You can ask those questions and learn more about fire safety."

To give your Thanksgiving table talk a jumpstart, the Red Cross and Sumter Fire Department offer these tips to the community:

- Keep an eye on what you fry. Never leave cooking food unattended. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove;

- Move items that can burn away from the stove. This includes dishtowels, bags, boxes, paper and curtains. Also keep children and pets at least three feet away;

- Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking;

- Watch out for pets' tails around open flames;

- Use flameless candles to reduce the risks an open flame brings;

- When frying food, turn the burner off if you see smoke or if the grease starts to boil. Carefully remove the pan from the burner;

- Keep a pan lid or a cookie sheet nearby. Use it to cover the pan if it catches fire. This will put out the fire. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled;

- Turn pot handles to the back of the stove, so no one bumps them or pulls them over;

- Keep screens over your fireplace, and remember to service your chimney regularly; and

- Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on. Check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving home to ensure all stoves, ovens and small appliances are turned off.

"We don't always think about it, but these are some of the things we can do to stay safe, especially around this time of year," Smith said.

The Sumter Fire Department offers installation of smoke alarms in homes. To have one installed, call the fire department at (803) 436-2600.