Nothing is more family-centric than the holidays that arrive at the end of the year. And nothing is more tragic than the horrible home accidents that destroy residences and kill or maim residents because of fires or cooking accidents.

Because this newspaper’s staff wishes a happy — and safe — holiday for all of our readers, we are doing something a bit different today with this editorial space. We are turning it over to Oregon Marshal Mark Wallace, who wants to remind Oregonians to consider fire safety when cooking and preparing holiday meals:

Every year cooking-related fires increase during the holidays. But, by following simple safety steps, you can keep loved ones from experiencing a cooking-related fire tragedy.

From 2008 through 2012, there were more than 3,601 cooking-related fires in Oregon, causing four deaths, 219 civilian injuries and more than $32 million in property loss. In hopes of not adding to those statistics this year, consider the following.

Cooking safety tips:

Keep a close eye on your cooking; never leave cooking food unattended. If you leave the kitchen, turn off the stove or set a timer.

Keep your cooking area clean, including stovetop, burners, oven and exhaust fan.

Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, dishtowels and food packaging — away from your stove top.

Heat cooking oil slowly and never leave it unattended.

Wear clothing that will not dangle onto stove burners and catch fire.

Keep pot and pan handles turned in toward the stove to avoid bumping them and spilling hot foods.

Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot foods or drinks are prepared or carried.

If you have a cooking fire:

Always keep a pot lid nearby to smother small grease fires. Smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the burner and don’t move the pan cover until it is completely cool.

Never pour water on a grease fire; it can splatter the grease and spread the fire.

In the event of a fire in your oven or microwave, turn off the oven and keep the door closed.

When in doubt, get out! Call 9-1-1 after you leave.

Make sure you have smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside of each sleeping area and in every bedroom. Test smoke alarms monthly, and replace them if they are 10 years old or older.

Turkey fryer safety:

The state fire marshal’s office agrees with the National Fire Protection Association, which discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that cook the turkey in hot oil. The use of deep turkey fryers can lead to devastating burns, other injuries and the destruction of property.

However, we also recognize families are increasingly choosing this method to prepare their turkeys. If you use a fryer, the fire marshal’s office urges you to use extreme caution.

If you’re cooking your turkey in a deep fryer, always do it outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable material, and never leave it unattended. Hot oil is extremely dangerous so never use turkey fryers on a wooden deck or in your garage.

Place the fryer on a flat, stable surface and don’t overfill it with cooking oil. Once the oil is up to temperature, turn off the burner and only insert turkeys that are completely thawed; otherwise, hot oil will splatter and may boil over the sides of the fryer. Never use water to cool hot oil or extinguish a cooking oil fire. Keep children away from the fryer, and use thermometers to gauge oil and food temperatures. After cooking, make sure the oil is completely cool before removing it from the fryer.

May your holiday season be happy and safe. Best wishes to your family from the Clackamas Review and Oregon City News.

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