Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are among the very worst for cooking fires

MASON CITY — Along with Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the top three worst days of the year for cooking fires in Iowa and nationwide.

Andrea Vaspis, public education director for the National Fire Protection Association, says December 24th and 25th will mean families and friends are gathering for a big meal — and they’ll usually congregate in the kitchen.

“There’s a lot more of the cooking going on, there’s a lot more people to distract you,” Vaspis says. “There is usually more alcohol use going on as well. That’s a recipe for a home fire when somebody thinks someone else is paying attention to something that’s on the stove.”

As guests arrive, there’s frequently chaos as people set down food they’ve brought to share, perhaps a little too close to the open flames. Watch for plastic containers that might melt or towels that could burst into flame.

“The person who’s by the stove needs to stay by the stove. Stand by your pan, watch what you fry,” Vaspis says. “Keep a heavy lid nearby when you’re cooking on the stove. In case there is a flare-up, you can slide that lid right over the pan, turn off the ignition and avert a fire.”

While a big part of the joy of the holidays is seeing kids and grandkids, she reminds safety should be your first priority while the cooking is underway.

“Keep kids and pets three feet away from where you’re cooking as it’s much too easy for someone to bump into something, spill something, knock something over, get burned,” Vaspis says. “You want to cook on those back burners while you can and turn your pan handles in.”

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires year-round, accounting for 49-percent all home fires reported to fire departments.