The Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services is urging residents to test their smoke alarms and keep an eye on cooking equipment to prevent fires before preparing Thanksgiving dinner.

According to the United States Fire Administration, an estimated 2,000 Thanksgiving Day fires occur annually in residential buildings throughout the country, with an estimated average of five deaths, 25 injuries and $21 million in property loss each year.


"The holidays can be hectic and a number of factors may lead to distracted cooking," Fire Chief John Butler said in a statement provided by the fire department. "Take preventative measures ahead of time to ensure that you and your family are safe this Thanksgiving."

The fire department provided the following safety tips for Thanksgiving preparations:

• Test smoke alarms monthly.

• Do not leave the kitchen while cooking and keep an eye on the stove top.

• Ensure you place turkey fryers on a hard, level and non-combustible outdoor surface and thoroughly thaw the turkey before cooking; partially frozen turkeys can cause a spill over or a flare up.

• Set up cooking appliances in a place that will not be easily tipped over.

• Put matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children.

• During peak cooking times, try to keep children and pets out of the kitchen; this will ensure that they don't get accidentally burned. Create a three foot "kid and pet free zone."

• Do not use water in an attempt to extinguish a grease fire. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher on hand.

• Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.

• Keep anything combustible—food packaging, towels, oven mitts—away from the stove top.

• If a fire or emergency does occur, remember to evacuate and call 911 immediately.

For more information on fire prevention tips and safety, go to, or the National Fire Protection Association's website at