“Thanksgiving is a holiday of feasting, but it’s also a day of intense cooking when stovetops and ovens are working overtime,” said Lorraine Carli, National Fire Protection Association vice president for communications.
Thanksgiving is the leading day for cooking fires, with three times as many cooking fires as an average day, according to the association’s statistics.
“These culinary activities bring an increased risk of fire, particularly when people are trying to prepare several dishes while entertaining friends and family,” Carli said.
Pell City fire Chief Patrick Draper said he recommends a common sense approach to cooking the holiday meal, both in the kitchen and when deep frying a turkey outdoors.
“Use good common sense and take the proper safety precautions,” he said. “We want everyone to have a fun and safe holiday.”
Alabama Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said cooking equipment fires are still the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, and the third-leading cause of fire deaths. On Thanksgiving, 2008, U.S. fire departments responded to 1,300 home cooking fires, compared to 420 such fires on an average day.
According to the fire protection association and Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office, fire departments across the U.S. responded to an estimated annual average of 154,700 home structure fires involving cooking equipment from 2004 to 2008. These fires caused an average of 460 civilian deaths, 4,850 reported civilian fire injuries and $724 million in direct property damage.
Overall, these incidents accounted for two of every five (41 percent) reported home fires, 17 percent of home fire deaths, more than one-third of home fire injuries and 11 percent of direct property damage resulting from home fires. Three of every five people (59 percent) injured in a cooking fire were hurt when they tried to fight the fire themselves.
The fire marshal’s office and fire protection association offer these cooking safety tips:
• Cook with caution.
• Be on alert. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
• Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling food there. If you leave the area for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• If you are simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check it regularly. Remain in the home while food is cooking and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
• Keep anything that can catch fire (oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, curtains, etc.) away from your stovetop.
If you have a cooking fire:
• Just get out. When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
• Call 911 and report the fire after you leave.
• If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way.
• Keep a lid nearby when cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
• For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
Draper also offered several tips for those who are deep frying turkeys:
• Never leave it unattended. A responsible adult should remain with the deep fryer at all times when it is on.
• Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
• Deep fry the turkey in an area away from combustibles such as leaves, household items, trees, etc. Cook over dirt, stone or other non-flammable surfaces.
• Keep small children away from the area where you are deep frying.
• Premeasure the oil. Place your turkey in the cold fryer and add oil to cover the bird. Remove the turkey and then heat the oil.
• Shut off the flame when lowering the turkey into the hot oil in case any of the oil spills over.
• Lower the bird slowly to prevent boil-over.
• Use a thermometer to guarantee the turkey reaches the proper cooked temperature.
“We encourage everyone to take the proper cooking precautions to help ensure a safe and fun Thanksgiving,” Draper said.
Contact Elsie Hodnett at email@example.com.