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Fire Department: Make safety first on holidays

LAWRENCEVILLE - Thanksgiving is a time for eating and being merry, meaning people are spending more time in the kitchen and at the grill - which unfortunately means an increase in cooking fires.

"People are more festive, sometimes they're more easily distracted by family and friends," Gwinnett County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge said. "It only takes a second for a grease fire to ignite or a pot to boil over. Lots of times we'll have several things on the burner, several things in the oven, things that need to be timed and stirred. There are plenty of things to distract us."

To ensure a safe and happy Turkey Day, the fire department offers the following tips:

· Make sure there is a working smoke detector on every level of the home, in every bedroom and in the hallway adjacent to bedrooms. Test detectors and replace the batteries at least twice a year.

· Have a fire escape plan and designated meeting place.

· Have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, close to the stove and near an exit. Know how to use it.

· Clean the stove and oven before beginning holiday cooking.

· Do not wear loose clothing while cooking.

· Never leave cooking unattended.

· If using turkey fryers, follow the manufacturer's instructions and keep the fryer away from the house and on a concrete surface.

Rutledge said cooking isn't the only risk factor during the holidays, noting that decorations and home heating sources are also responsible for too many fires.

"We do tend to see an increase in fires in Georgia - especially north Georgia - in cold weather months due to home heating sources," he said. "What we recommend is that now is the time for people to have their fireplaces checked, their furnace checked, and just prepare their home for the winter months."

Rutledge said alcohol is often a part of holiday celebrations, but that alcohol and some decorations don't often mix.

"Whenever you mix alcohol with candles, and especially with small children, it's a losing combination," he said. "Either do without the alcohol or do without the candles."

He said by following a few simple rules, tragedy can be prevented.

"We've seen people injured in Gwinnett, people burned, houses burned," Rutledge said. "Our goal is for everyone to have a safe, enjoyable, happy holiday."