Giving Thanks for Fire Safety

Thanksgiving Day is the peak day of the year for home cooking fires.

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home injuries, and Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, the National Fire Protection Association reminds us. So next week is the perfect time to raise your awareness of fire safety. Be alert when cooking, keep an eye on what you fry, and especially, keep flammable items away from your cooking area, the association advises.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported in 2013 that, from 2009 through 2011, an average of about 1,300 cooking fires occurred in the United States on Thanksgiving Day -- more than three times the average daily rate of about 400 cooking fires per day.

NFPA's safety tips include these:

  • Be on alert. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don't use the stove or stovetop.
  • 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.

If you have a cooking fire, take these actions:

  • Get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number after you leave.
  • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and that you have a clear escape route.
  • 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.

NFPA's safety considerations for cooking with oil:

  • Always stay in the kitchen when frying on the stovetop.
  • If you see wisps of smoke or the oil smells, immediately turn off the burner and/or carefully remove the pan from the burner. Smoke is a danger sign that the oil is too hot.
  • Heat the oil slowly to the temperature you need for frying or sautéing.
  • Add food gently to the pot or pan so the oil does not splatter.

NFPA cites a CPSC study that found 75 percent of range or stove fires started with food ignitions: 43 percent began with cooking oil and 33 percent started with fish or meat. CPSC found 63 percent of the range or stove fires beginning with food occurred when someone was frying.

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