An idyllic Christmas scene can go from lovely to scary if fireplaces and candles are left unattended.

Thanksgiving begins a period of higher fire risk. State Fire Marshal Tim Bean urges Missourians to put safety first as they cook, decorate and gather again for more family reunions and holiday parties in 2021.

“Thanksgiving begins a five-week period of elevated fire hazards with the three top days of the year for cooking fires all occurring between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day,” Bean said. "Candles and holiday decorations are also fire hazards, and the top three days of the year for candle fires are all between Christmas and New Year’s Day. We’re reminding people to take basic precautions that will protect their loved ones and save lives.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is the peak day for residential cooking fires followed by Christmas and Christmas Eve.

From 2015 to 2019, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7,400 fires started by candles. These fires caused an annual average of 90 civilian deaths. The peak days for candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve. In the same period, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 790 home fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, and an annual average of 160 fires started by Christmas trees.

"About 44% of decoration fires started because the item was too close to a heat source like a candle or equipment," states a release.

To help keep you and yours stay safe, fire safety experts recommend these holiday fire safety tips:

• An adult should remain in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop and remain at home when cooking a turkey so he or she can check it frequently.

• Keep children away from the stove; arrange pans on the stovetop so handles face inward.

• Be prepared to deal with potential cooking fires. Never put water on a grease fire.

• If using a turkey fryer, use it outdoors on a flat, level surface that is a safe distance from the house, garage, decks and trees. Don’t operate a fryer in snow or rain. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid over filling. Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and dry. Turn off the burner before lowering the turkey into the oil. Once submerged, restart the burner. Never leave the fryer unattended. Keep children and pets away from the fryer.

• Don’t overload outlets, power strips or extension cords and never allow cords to dangle off kitchen counters or any other surface.

• Avoid using real candles as part of decorations and remember to always exercise basic safety when using candles throughout the home. Never leave children alone in a room with a lit candle.

• Never leave a lighted Christmas tree or other decorative lighting unattended. Turn lights off when leaving the home or going to bed. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets. Never overload extension cords or outlets and don’t place an electrical cord under a rug.

• Understand that natural cut Christmas trees always involve fire risk. To minimize the risk, choose a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree within 3 feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.

• Decorate with children in mind. Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level and keep lights out of reach. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them.

• Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.

• Review home fire escape plans with all family members and particularly with overnight guests who will be staying in a home they are not familiar with. Everyone, including guests, should know two ways out of each room in the residence.

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