Iowans are reminded to cook with caution this week as Thanksgiving is the number-one day of the year for cooking fires. State Fire Marshal Jim Kenkel says this holiday accounts for three times the daily average of cooking fires.

Many folks can get distracted with multiple tasks while trying to create the perfect family meal, so Kenkel’s first advice is to stay put after turning on any cooking appliance. Kenkel says people should stay in the kitchen to keep an eye on what’s on the stove and in the oven. He says bad things can happen if they’re trying to do too many things at once and forget about something that’s cooking.

If a fire erupts in a pan on your cooktop, Kenkel says to put the lid on it and switch off the heat. If the fire gets too big too quickly, he says your best course of action is to evacuate. “We recommend that you get yourself and everybody else out of the house and call the fire department from a neighbor’s (house),” Kenkel says. “Also, do not use water to extinguish a grease fire because that can cause the fire to increase rather rapidly.”

If it’s a grease fire that a lid won’t cover, a dry chemical extinguisher is the best bet, or baking soda. Kenkel says cooking is the leading cause of home fires. From 2003 to ’06, fire departments nationwide responded to more than 150,000 home fires involving cooking equipment each year. Those fires caused an average of 500 deaths a year, 46-hundred injuries and more than $750-million in property damage. Kenkel says unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in these fires.