Thanksgiving is leading day for cooking fires
by Kenny Farmer
According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving Day is the leading day for home cooking fires in the United States, with three times more fires occurring on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year.

The NFPA says that, in 2010, there were 1,370 fires on Thanksgiving, which is a 219 percent increase of the daily average.

Steve Holmes, public information officer from the Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office, recommends that someone be in the kitchen at all times when frying, grilling or broiling food and that the stove should be turned off if no one is present.

Pell City Fire Department Assistant Chief Mike Burdette agrees that cooking food should not be left unattended and recommends that a small fire extinguisher should be kept in the kitchen at all times.

Tim Shelnutt, assistant fire chief with the Childersburg Fire Department, says he has seen a lot of problems associated with frying turkeys, especially frozen turkeys.

Burdette says that those frying a turkey this Thanksgiving should use “extreme caution.” He says to make sure the area where the turkey will be fried is “well ventilated.” Burdette suggests that the ideal location to fry a turkey is outdoors.

Holmes says that, with all the guests and activity in homes on Thanksgiving Day, kitchen safety is important, especially with children present.

Holmes says to keep children away from ovens, stovetops and hot foods. He says the steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.

Danny Warwick, chief of the Talladega Fire Department, warns that when oil is heated to an unsafe temperature, or if a fryer is too full of oil, the oil can boil over and hit an open flame, causing a fire.

Holmes also says to be aware of where electrical cords are in relation to children, recommending that all electrical cords, especially those attached to coffee makers and plate warmers, are kept out of their reach.

The NFRA reminds those hosting a Thanksgiving dinner that all flammables, including oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels and/or curtains, should be kept away from the stovetop.

Warwick says that people should be mindful of what they are wearing while cooking, warning that loose sleeves can become hazardous around an open flame or stovetop.

Also remember to check all fire alarms to make sure they are working before guests arrive. Burdette says that many people set aside a day out of the year to check the batteries on their smoke detectors, such as a birthday, anniversary or holiday. He believes a better idea might be to test your smoke alarm each time the time changes, once in the spring and once in the fall.

Other safety tips from the NFPA include checking food regularly, using a kitchen timer as a reminder and staying alert while cooking. The NFPA discourages use of a stove or oven if drowsy or inebriated.

Thanksgiving also marks the day that many people begin to decorate for Christmas. Burdette urges people not only to be cautious and observant when it comes to cooking this year’s turkey, but when hanging Christmas decorations, as well. For those with live Christmas trees, Burdette says to water them regularly. He also recommends using UL-approved lights on trees and on the interior and exterior of the home.

Shelnutt says that most of the newer Christmas lights do not create a lot of problems, but that older, bigger lights tend to create a lot of heat.

In case of a large cooking fire, the NFPA says to call 9-1-1 and leave the house or structure immediately, closing the door behind you to help contain the flames. Small fires can, many times, be smothered by placing a lid from a pot or pan over it. After covering the fire, turn off the stovetop and leave the fire covered until the pan has completely cooled. For oven fires, the NFPA recommends that the oven be left closed and the heat be turned off.

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© 2012