Michigan State Fire Marshal Richard Miller urges cooking safety on Thanksgiving Day, the leading day for home cooking fires, with three times as many fires occurring on Thanksgiving as any other day of the year.
The National Fire Protection Association says Thanksgiving Day is the leading day for home cooking fires, with three times as many occurring on Thanksgiving as any other day of the year. In 2010, there were 1,370 fires on Thanksgiving, a 219 percent increase over the daily average.
Miller also urges consumers who will be cooking with turkey fryers to know the dangers and consider using the safer, oil-less fryers.
"Unattended cooking is the primary cause of residential fires especially on Thanksgiving when cooks are distracted," said Miller. "Never leave cooking unattended, not even for a second. Cooking fires can easily be prevented by following a few simple precautions."
Miller also emphasized that turkey fryers, although they may be a popular and faster cooking method, pose a considerable fire risk and are not safe to use due to the amount of oil and high temperatures used to cook a turkey. According to the National Fire Protection Association, turkey fryers that use oil, as currently designed, are not suitable for acceptably safe use by even well-informed and careful consumers.
Miller explained that the majority of reported turkey fryer incidents occur while the oil is being heated. The units can easily tip over, spilling hot, scalding oil onto anyone or anything nearby, leading to fires, burns or other injuries. Since most units do not have automatic thermostat controls, oil may heat until it catches fire. The sides, lids, and handles get extremely hot and may cause burns.
"Deep frying a turkey in several gallons of hot oil over 350 degrees is as flammable as gasoline; it's so dangerous that it accounts for the high number of house and garage fires reported each year," said Miller. "Cook a turkey the traditional way - in an oven. But if consumers prefer turkey fryers, they should consider switching to the newer units available, the oil-less electric or infrared models that are much safer provided that instructions are followed carefully."
Thanksgiving Day also brings an increased risk of fire with stovetops and ovens working overtime and inexperienced or busy cooks trying to prepare several dishes while entertaining family and friends. It's easy to become distracted or lose track of what's going on in the kitchen.
The Michigan Bureau of Fire Services offers these tips for safer cooking:
Start the holiday cooking with a clean stove and oven.
Remove food and grease buildup from burners, stovetop, and oven. Preferably use the back burners, especially around young children. Turn pot handles inward to reduce the risk that pots with hot contents will be knocked over.
Check food regularly while it's simmering, baking, boiling or roasting.
- Set timers to keep track of turkeys and other foods that require extended cooking times.
- Turn off the stove if you must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time.
- Keep kids away from cooking areas; don't hold children while cooking.
- Keep kitchen clutter, potholders, towels, and food wrappers well away from the stove, candles and other open flames.
- Do keep a flame- resistant oven mitt, potholder or lid nearby to smother any flames.
- Don't wear clothing with loose-fitting sleeves or dangling jewelry when cooking. Sleeves over hot burners can catch on fire and jewelry can snag on pot handles causing spills leading to severe scalds and burns.
- For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Have working smoke alarms in the home and have an escape plan that the entire family knows.
Safety tips for turkey fryers include:
- Read and follow the manufacturer's user guide.
- Never leave the fryer unattended.
- Only use the oil recommended by the manufacturer. Do not use cheaper or different types of oil for the turkey fryer because they have different ignition temperatures.
- Turkey fryers should only be used outdoors, on a flat surface, well away from houses, garages and decks.
- Allow at least two feet of space between the liquid propane tank and the fryer burner.
- Keep children and pets well away from the fryer as the oil inside the cooking pot is dangerously hot and remains hot hours after use.
- Do not overfill the fryer with oil that can result in overflow and a fire when the turkey is added.
- Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts; wear safety goggles to protect eyes from oil splatter.
- 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.
- If oil begins to smoke, immediately turn the gas supply OFF.
- Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby and use it if the fire is manageable.
- Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.
"Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it when necessary, whether you're in the kitchen cooking with the stove or outside using a turkey fryer," said Miller. "Above all, don't try and fight a fire yourself. Immediately call 9-1-1 in such emergencies."