RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — We may be approaching the most wonderful time of the year, but for local fire departments, it’s also the busiest time of the year.

The Richmond Fire Department confirms the holiday season can trigger an influx in residential structural fires — something largely attributed to more chefs in the kitchen, more candles lit, and the use of space heaters.

Space heaters can be particularly troublesome, and Richmond Fire recommends keeping space heaters at least three feet from combustible materials like wood, plastic, and paper. However, first responders don’t solely blame alternative heating units for holiday house fires. Lieutenant Robyn Aviles shared another primary instigator.

“Our most common problem is unattended cooking fires,” Aviles said. “People putting things on the stove, leaving, falling asleep, just rushing.”

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, Thanksgiving is the leading date for house fire calls, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. Almost 50% of reported house fires stem from cooking. Aviles highlighted how the increasingly popular trend of “turkey frying” could be disastrous if conducted improperly.

“Don’t fry turkeys indoors,” Aviles said. “You should never be operating propane inside of your home inside of a structure.”

Maintaining mindfulness and attention can make all the difference in preserving one’s holiday cheer this season. Aviles emphasized the importance of being alert in the kitchen and whenever there’s fire involved — never leave a stove, oven, or open flame unattended. Another way to prevent tragedy after sparks break out is to have a solid evacuation plan and to leave the flame-fighting to the professionals.

“Don’t try to put your fires out by yourself,” Aviles said.

In terms of prevention, the Richmond Fire Department reminds members of the community to regularly monitor one’s home smoke detectors. They note a lack of working fire alarms is to blame for three out of five home-fire deaths. The Department installs and inspects smoke detectors free of charge for citizens. For more information on how to schedule an appointment, visit Richmond Fire’s tips online.