Cooking fires are the number one cause of fires in the Volunteer State, and the Tennessee State Fire Marshal's Office (SFMO) is reminding Tennesseans to "stand by your pan."

"Winter weather and recent heavy rains across the Volunteer State has many Tennesseans staying indoors instead of heading out to grab a bite to eat," an SMFO spokesperson said. "The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) reminds consumers to always ‘stand by your pan’ when cooking in order to avoid a potential kitchen-related tragedy."

Close to 10,000 residential cooking fires were reported in Tennessee between 2014-2018. Just over 50 people died in those fires and 245 people were injured. The SMFO said the fires caused $46.1 million in property damages.

The main factor in many of the 9,361 fires was unattended cooking equipment.

“Tragically, unattended or careless cooking can make an everyday meal into a life-changing emergency,” Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak said. “Taking simple precautions while cooking can help prevent cooking-related home fires this winter and any time of year.”

The SMFO created a list of safety tips to help Tennesseans avoid stovetop fires:

  • NEVER pour water on a grease fire.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from cooking areas.
  • If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
  • If you are baking or roasting, use a kitchen timer to remind you when the food is done cooking.
  • Always stand by your pan if you are frying, grilling, or broiling. If you must leave the room, even for a short period of time, turn off the stovetop.
  • If a small fire starts in a pan on the stove, put on an oven mitt and slide a lid or cookie sheet over the pan to smother the flames. Do not remove the lid or cookie sheet until the fire is out and the pan is completely cool.
  • If possible, avoid discharging a fire extinguisher onto a pan fire. It can shoot burning grease around the kitchen, spreading the fire and causing burns.
  • If a pan is on fire, do not try to carry it away from the stove. The oil or grease can splash out causing burns. In addition, carrying the pan can feed more oxygen to the already burning fire.
  • If the fire does not go out, get everyone out of the home, close all doors behind you as you exit, and call the fire department from outside using a cell phone or a neighbor’s phone.

For more information, visit the website for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.