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While the coronavirus may have changed many Thanksgiving gatherings, the need for people to protect themselves from cooking fires continues, according to the Greater Arkansas Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Typically, Thanksgiving is one of the peak days for cooking fires, which is the top cause of home fires in the U.S. Most often, these emergencies are caused by unattended cooking -- a common behavior shared by nearly 70% of people, as shown in a national Red Cross survey this year.

To help keep people safe, the Greater Arkansas chapter urges everyone to follow these safety tips:

• Keep an eye on what is frying. Never leave cooking food unattended. If the cook must leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, they should turn off the stove.

• Move items that can burn away from the stove. This includes dishtowels, bags, boxes, paper and curtains. Also keep children and pets at least 3 feet away.

• Avoid wearing loose clothing while cooking.

• When frying food, turn the burner off if there's smoke or if the grease starts to boil. Carefully remove the pan from the burner.

• Keep a pan lid or a cookie sheet nearby. Use it to cover the pan if it catches on fire. This will put out the fire. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.

TWO MINUTES TO ESCAPE

Test the smoke alarms monthly and practice a home fire escape plan until everyone can get out in less than two minutes -- the amount of time a person may have to get out of a burning home before it's too late.

Visit redcross.org/fire for more information, including an escape plan to practice with the family. For COVID-19 safety tips, visit redcross.org/coronavirus.

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