Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and the day before Thanksgiving. NFPA reports that in 2017, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,600 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving, the peak day for such fires.
What makes Thanksgiving Day fires so common, and how can we prevent these types of fires from occurring?
Cooking the turkey
The turkey is the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving meals. It can also become a dangerous fire hazard if cooked improperly or left unattended. More can wrong than you might imagine.
It’s become more popular to fry turkeys in recent years. The problem with this method is that it is very easy for the fryer to overflow oil onto the burner and cause a grease fire. The oil can catch fire in no time. NFPA actually advises against the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers.
If you choose to fry your turkey, the first step is to set up the fryer in an outdoor area away from all structures. Watch for yard debris and overhanging trees. Next, make sure the turkey size is small enough to fit in with the oil in the fryer. The turkey should also be completely thawed. When placing the turkey in the fryer, slowly lower the bird into the oil to avoid splashing oil. If a grease fire should occur while frying a turkey, use the proper fire extinguisher to extinguish the flames and turn off the propane tank as soon as possible.
Oven baked turkeys can also ignite, but it’s rare. If that should happen, try to snuff out the flames with a lid while it’s still in the oven. Removing the flaming turkey can possibly catch other items on fire. A portable fire extinguisher should be used if the flames are too large to manage. Keep a portable fire extinguisher stored in the kitchen at all times.
Kids in the kitchen
Kids in a busy and bustling kitchen is simply a bad idea. Kids can knock over hot liquids, trip over cords, run into counter tops or appliances, or burn themselves.
A few rules to remember this Thanksgiving are to keep children away from the stove (a good rule of thumb is 3 feet away), away from hot foods or liquids, and to store all matches or lighters out of reach of children. Aside from these reminders, it’s also a good idea to watch that electric cords aren’t dangling from the counter tops. Kids may pull on them or trip.
If possible, it’s best to keep all children out of the kitchen area on busy holidays like Thanksgiving. If kids are allowed to run in or around the kitchen where food is being cooked, serious injury or fire could occur. Never leave children unattended when food is being prepared.
Faulty cooking equipment
Cooking equipment was involved in almost half of all reported home fires and home fire injuries. It is also the second leading cause of home fire deaths, per NFPA. Before hosting your Thanksgiving gathering this year, check to make sure all smoke detectors in your home are working. Next, check to make sure all cooking equipment you plan to use is in good working order.
Planning for what appliances and equipment you’ll need also helps. You should ideally set up your kitchen as you would on Thanksgiving Day to ensure sufficient counter space, outlets, etc. Check all wires/cords on all cooking appliances (slow cookers for example) before use. Never use extension cords that are frayed or worn.
The kitchen is the central gathering place for visiting friends and family, especially on Thanksgiving Day. With so many people in the kitchen while cooking is taking place, it can also become a dangerous place.
A cluttered kitchen can lead to unattended cooking as the host is distracted by friends and family. The kitchen may also become cluttered with appliances, hot plates, and dishes brought my guests. Cluttered kitchen counters, overloaded outlets, and electrical cords in close proximity to heat can cause kitchen fires.
Try to keep most family and friends (especially kids and pets) out of the kitchen while preparing food. Set up appetizers and drinks in a separate room to deter guests from crowding the kitchen and distracting you from safe cooking practices. Set up another table away from kitchen counters for guests to leave dishes. If a dish needs to be plugged in (a slow cooker for example), set up a separate area near an outlet. It’s best to avoid not using extension cords in a busy kitchen as the cords can easily get tangled up with heated items or overload an outlet.
Fire Systems, Inc.
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