Thanksgiving Cooking Safety
Thanksgiving is a time of year for families and friends to get together, but as cooking is a major activity of this holiday it presents a greater risk of home fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), nearly four times as many home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving as on a typical day.
The NFPA’s latest report shows that cooking is the leading cause of home structure fires and injuries in the U.S. States that reported cooking fires hit new highs in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
The report further states that home cooking fires peak on major U.S. holidays that traditionally include cooking, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In 2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,730 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving, the peak day for such fires.
The Columbia Fire Department responded to over 150 cooking related fires in the year 2015 of those eight occurred on Thanksgiving Day, 4 were unattended and 1 resulted in non-life-threatening injury.
Regardless of the date, unattended cooking is by far the leading cause of these fires and fire deaths.
“There are many factors that contribute to an increased risk of cooking related fires, but during holidays such as Thanksgiving distractions make it all too easy to forget that you’ve left something cooking or left something flammable to close to cooking source.
The following tips can help reduce the risk of cooking fires on Thanksgiving and in general:
- Stay in the kitchen when cooking to keep a close eye on the food, especially when frying and sautéing with oil.
- Stay alert and focused when cooking. To help minimize the risk of injury, avoid cooking when drinking alcohol or if you’re sleepy.
- Use a timer to keep track of cooking times, most notably when cooking a meal that takes a long time like roasting a turkey, baking a roast or simmering. Check the stove or oven frequently. Consider putting timers in different rooms so you can hear them over the music and party chatter.
- Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels away from the cooking area.
- Keep a lid nearby when you’re 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.
- If you try to extinguish the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
- If there is a fire and you are unable to safely extinguish the fire-just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
- Call 9-1-1 after you leave.
Also during the holidays the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil are frequently used. Chief Jenkins discourages the use of turkey fryers which can lead to devastating burns, other injuries and the destruction of property.
Chief Jenkins urges those who prefer fried turkey to seek out professional establishments, such as grocery stores, specialty food retailers, and restaurants for the preparation of deep-fried turkey. However, if you decide to do it yourself, practice the following safety tips:
- Turkey fryers always should be used outdoors at least 10 feet from buildings and any other material that can burn.
- Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping and never on wooden decks or in garages.
- Never leave the fryer unattended.
- Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow children or pets near the turkey fryer. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot for hours after use.
- To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
- Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water don’t mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.