By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve

BOSTON (CBS) – As families gather around the table for the holidays, there is a very serious safety warning.

The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the worst time of the year for kitchen fires.

Jamie Zeilger knows how quickly a kitchen fire can get out of hand. He was cooking chicken wings in hot oil when they burst into flames. He tried to carry the flaming pan outside and ended up with burns that put him in the hospital for 11 days.

“The skin actually started coming down like melted wax,” described Zeigler. “I was burnt here on my right arm and on the right side of my face, onto my ear.”

Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan cites kitchen fires as the leading cause of house fires in the state.

In fact, 10,000 kitchen fires resulted in three deaths over the past year.

A kitchen fire simulation showed thick heavy smoke pushing down from the ceiling in just one minute. Within 90 seconds, the cabinets were ablaze.

Often homeowners can make matters worse by taking the wrong action in those first key seconds.

“If you throw a glass of water on a stove fire, an oil based fire, it is basically going to explode in your face,” said Coan. “It is that dramatic. Oil and water don’t mix.”

Using a wet dish towel is also a bad move to make. Throwing it on the flaming pan just pushes the flames out the sides, allowing the fire to continue spreading.

“The thing to do, if you can it safely, is take a lid and slide that lid across the fire and smother the fire,” advised Coan. Removing the lid too quickly from the pot can allow the flames to spontaneously resume.

There are disposable extinguishers, like Tundra, which are specifically designed for grease fires.

A device called “Stove Top Fire Stop” is a fire extinguisher in a can. It has small magnets which allow it to be attached to the hood of the stove. When flames reach the can, it releases a fire suppressing powder.

Fire officials are clear on this point: if any fire has left the pan and started to spread, quickly get everyone out of the house and call 911.

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