Russellville Fire Capt. Steve Thornton said the last thing firefighters want to do today is crash someone's Christmas.
"We're the kind of uninvited guests that no one wants to see, because if we show up at a house, it's to put out a fire," Thornton said.
According to local fire officials and the U.S. Fire Administration, Christmas Day fires are some of the most common.
According to U.S. Fire Administration officials, the most common Christmas fires start from cooking.
Reports indicate from 2006-10, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 157,300 home structure fires that involved cooking equipment.
"And likely that's because stoves were left unattended," Muscle Shoals Fire Inspector Donald Ray Coon said.
Officials with the National Fire Protection Association said cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. Unattended cooking was the leading contributing factor in these fires and fire deaths.
"There's just so much going on during the holidays and especially Christmas Day," Coon said. "With so much going on — people coming in for the holidays, and all the cooking — it can lead to disaster."
Thornton said it's easy to get distracted with all the activities going on at Christmas.
"They forget to turn off the stove, and they only expect to be away from the kitchen for a minute or two," Thornton said. "Unfortunately, that minute or two can turn into 5-10 minutes, and the next thing you know, the smoke detector is going off.
"When that happens, it's usually too late."
Coon warns to never leave a stove unattended while cooking.
"Always have an adult watching whenever the stove is being used," Coon said. "Often things boil over onto the stove eyes and that can start a fire very quickly," he said. "It boils down to commonsense, but for whatever reason at this time of the year, with everything going on, we kind of lose our commonsense approach to safety.
Fire officials said Thanksgiving is the leading day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day.
"Unfortunately, we've had to make fire runs on Christmas Day," Thornton said. "Thankfully, none of them have been serious.
"The last thing firefighters want to do is spend time putting out a fire on Christmas. It's no fun for anyone."
Never leave cooking unattended.
The leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking.
Most cooking fires in the home involve the stove top.
When you leave the kitchen, no matter how long a time, turn off the stove.
Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire.
Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from the stove top.
Keep a lid nearby when cooking to smother small grease fires. Slide the lid over the pan and turn off the stove top. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
Keep stove tops clean of food or debris.
Don’t overload kitchen outlets.
Keep children away from the stove and other areas with hot food or drink.
Never hold a child while cooking, carrying hot food or liquids.
Source: U.S. Fire Administration and National Fire Protection Association
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.