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Officials warn Thanksgiving cooks of fire dangers

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety warns that holiday-related fires cost Minnesotans $1.3 million in 2009.

In 2009, 49 percent of all fires in the state started in the kitchen. On Thanksgiving weekend alone, 82 residential fires were reported, according to a news release from the state fire marshal. Thanksgiving fires have cost Minnesotans nearly $38 million in the past 20 years.

"It's hard to believe how quickly a frying pan can overheat, or how easily a carelessly placed towel can ignite," Deputy State Fire Marshal Becki White said in the release. "They key to fire safety in the kitchen is attention -- constant, unbroken attention to what's happening on the stove and in the oven."

Stove fires can start quickly, and they don't behave like other fires. Panicked people may use a fire extinguisher or water, which will only spread a grease fire. A stove fire should be smothered. If a lid is put on a pan or if the oven is closed, the lack of oxygen will kill the fire.

The Department of Public Safety issued a list of tips for Thanksgiving cooks:

- Never leave cooking unattended, even for a moment.

- Arrange for someone to be in the kitchen whenever food is cooking.

- Watch hot skillets; clean stove hoods and stovetops. Grease and oil catch fire easily.

- Keep towels, food packaging and clothing away from burners.

- Keep children at least three feet away from the stove. Another backup to good cooking safety is to have working smoke alarms with fresh batteries.