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DEAR ABBY: Over the years, Americans have incorporated fire safety into their daily lives by installing smoke alarms in their homes and developing an escape plan for their family to follow in the event of a fire. These measures have saved lives and prevented injuries. However, few people consider the risks associated with a common activity that most of us participate in daily: cooking.

Did you know that unattended cooking is a leading cause of home fires? Three out of 10 home fires begin in the kitchen, more than any other room in the home. Home cooking fires kill hundreds of Americans and injure roughly 4,000 more each year. Many of these fires are avoidable.

This year, the National Fire Protection Association is focusing its annual public awareness campaign, Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 8 to 14), on cooking safety, urging the public to "Prevent Cooking Fires: Watch What You Heat!"

How can people be safer from cooking fires at home? Just follow a few basic safety guidelines while working in the kitchen: Never leave cooking unattended while frying, grilling, broiling or boiling, and if you must leave for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. If you are simmering or baking something over a longer period, check it regularly. Remain in the home and use a timer to remind you that the stove or oven is on. And avoid wearing loose clothing with dangling sleeves while cooking, as it could catch fire if it comes in contact with a gas flame or electric burner.

I hope that everyone reading this letter will add safety to their list of ingredients as they prepare their next meal. -- JAMES M. SHANNON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION

DEAR MR. SHANNON: So do I, because cooking is something that so many people do by rote that it's easy to become distracted. I would like to add a few tips to consider when small children are members of the household.

If children are present during cooking, maintain a "kid-free zone" of 3 feet around the stove. And if they are in the kitchen, the stove's back burners should be used and pot handles turned inward to reduce the risk that pots with hot contents will be knocked over. Also, do not hold small children while cooking.

Readers, Fire Prevention Week is the logical time to review other safety measures around the house and to check your smoke alarms to assure they are working properly. To learn more about fire prevention and safety, log on to � HYPERLINK "" ���.

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating "Linus" for about a year. We say we love each other, but Linus says there's no such thing as "true love." OK, he's not very romantic, but he treats me well.

I was in love before -- the kind I thought was true love -- but I lost him. Now I'm not so sure I believe in true love, but I'm a romantic, and somehow, ending up with someone who doesn't believe in true love doesn't seem right. I'm not sure what to do. Should I keep looking for a true love that may not exist, or settle for someone who loves me, but not in that soul mate sort of way? -- D.L.K. IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR D.L.K.: "True love" is difficult to define because it's different for every individual. If Linus is considering marriage to you, then perhaps what Linus feels is true love -- for him. However, if what you want is someone who will sweep you off your feet and maintain that intensity throughout a marriage, then keep looking, because Linus is not the Prince Charming for you.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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