Amid all the shopping and chopping and cooking and baking tonight and tomorrow, followed by more preparation for Black Friday, fire prevention probably isn't at the forefront of most people's minds going into the holiday weekend.
But it should be, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, who says the leading cause of all Thanksgiving fires is cooking in the home.
An estimated 2,000 fires occur each on Thanksgiving in the United States, resulting in an average of five deaths, 25 injuries and $21 million in property loss each year, said the agency, an entity of the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Fires occur most frequently from noon to 4 p.m., prime time for roasting turkeys/tofurkeys, boiling potatoes and vegetables and baking pies. Smoke alarms were not present in 20 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires that occurred in occupied residential buildings, the agency said.
So, what to do? Make sure your smoke alarms work, which I'm sure you already do, as a practical matter of everyday life. And here are a few more tips that may seem like common sense, but are always good to be reminded of:
- Keep a close watch on your cooking. You should never leave cooking food unattended.
- Keep oven food packaging and other combustibles away from burners and heat sources.
- Heat cooking oil slowly and watch it closely; it can ignite quickly.
- Don't wear loose sleeves while working over hot stove burners. They can melt, ignite or catch on handles of pots and pans.
- Have a "kid-free zone" of at least three-feet around the stove and areas where hot foods or drinks are prepared or carried.
- Keep a lid nearby 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 cool.
And, if you must deep fry a turkey, which is basically not recommended in good faith by any fire safety or prevention agency, remember to wear your goggles, keep children and pets far, far away, and this stuff, too:
- Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.
- Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
- Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
- Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
- Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
- To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
- Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
- Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades.
- Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
- The National Turkey Federation (NTF) recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.
- Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.