Thanksgiving Helpings of Safety

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Dwayne Jackson
  • 436th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Emergency Services

Thanksgiving is the leading day for home-cooking fires and Dover AFB Fire Emergency Services is calling on cooks across the installation to include fire safety in their recipes!

Based on statistics from 2011 to 2013, holiday cooks are nearly twice as likely to experience a residential fire or fire-related injury on Thanksgiving Day compared to all other days out of the year. An estimated 2,100 Thanksgiving Day fires occur annually in the United States causing 10 deaths, 50 injuries, and $28 million worth of property damage.

Many of these holiday misfortunes; however, could have been avoided by keeping a keen eye on what’s cooking, especially those turkeys! To avoid cooking fires, use caution and follow these tips for a safe and festive experience: 
    • Be alert. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don't use the stove or oven.
    • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food.
    • If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
    • If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling 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 or curtains - away from your stove.
    • Keep kids away from cooking areas by enforcing a "kid-free zone" of three feet around the stove.
    • If you have young children, use the stove's back burners whenever possible, and turn pot handles inward to reduce the risk of pots with hot contents being knocked over.
    • Never hold a small child while cooking.

Even the most attentive chefs can have a fire. To reduce the risk of fire, follow these tips:
    • Clean up food and grease from burners and the stove top.
    • Keep a lid nearby when you're cooking to smother small grease fires.
    • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
    • Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stove.
    • Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
    • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil. Turkey fryers use a substantial quantity of cooking oil at high temperatures. Fryer units, currently available for home use, pose a significant risk of hot oil boiling over during the cooking process leading to devastating burns, other injuries and the destruction of property. If you plan to deep-fry your holiday bird, be sure you know how to safely use the fryer, and take these precautions to protect yourself, your guests and your home:
    • Keep outdoor fryers off decks, out of garages, away from overhangs, and a safe distance away from trees and other structures.
    • Make sure the turkey is thawed and dry before cooking. Ice or water that mixes into the hot oil can cause flare-ups.
    • Watch the weather. Never operate a fryer in the rain or snow.
    • Place the fryer on a level surface, and avoid moving it once it's in use.
    • Leave at least two feet distance between the tank and the burner when using a propane-powered fryer.
    • Follow the manufacturer's instructions to avoid overfilling. Oil can ignite when it makes contact with the burner.
    • Choose a smaller turkey for frying. A bird that weighs 8 to 10 pounds is best; pass on turkeys weighing more than 12 pounds.
    • Never leave fryers unattended.
    • Purchase a fryer with temperature controls, and watch the oil temperature carefully. Cooking oil that is heated beyond its smoke point can catch fire. If you notice the oil is smoking, turn the fryer off.
    • Turn off the burner before lowering the turkey into the oil. Once the turkey is submerged, turn the burner back on.
    • Wear goggles to shield your eyes, use oven mitts to protect your hands and arms and keep an "ABC" or grease-rated fire extinguisher close by. Never use water on a fire related to turkey fryers.
    • Skip the stuffing when frying turkey, and avoid water-based marinades.
    • Keep children and pets away from the fryer at all times.
    • Once finished, carefully remove the pot from the burner, place it on a level surface and cover to let the oil cool overnight before disposing.
    • Consider an oil-less fryer. These use infrared heat, rather than oil to cook.

If you do experience a fire, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Fires can spread rapidly. You may not realize a fire is outside your control until it’s too late. When in doubt, just get out. When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
Call 9-1-1.

This Thanksgiving Day, the Dover AFB Fire Emergency organization wants to encourage families to continue fire safety measures while celebrating. Evidence has shown us that Thanksgiving fires happen, but with careful and attentive preparation they can often times be avoided. Stay safe, stay full and enjoy a fire-free holiday.

For additional information or questions please don't hesitate to contact the Dover Fire Prevention office at (302) 677-4401.