The National Fire Protection Association and Delaware State Fire School are urging the public to make fire safety a priority when preparing this year’s Thanksgiving feast.
The association’s latest report shows that more U.S. home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than any other day, followed by the days before Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
According to the report, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,630 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day, three and a half times an average day’s response. Unattended cooking was by far the leading cause of associated fires and fire deaths. Cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fire injuries year-round, and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths.
“Thanksgiving often involves cooking multiple dishes at once, which can be particularly tricky, with lots of distractions in and around the kitchen,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy at the fire protection association. “From getting ready for guests and managing family needs to entertaining when everyone arrives – these types of activities make it all too easy to lose track of what’s cooking, and that’s where a lot of fires tend to happen.”
Senior instructor Mike Lowe of the Delaware State Fire School said while Thanksgiving 2020 may require changes in tradition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people cannot let down their guard down and be inattentive.
Carli notes that the pandemic may reduce the number of larger group gatherings in favor of smaller celebrations, which may mean more kitchens being used to cook Thanksgiving meals this year.
The fire protection association and the state fire school offer these tips and recommendations for safely cooking this Thanksgiving:
Never leave the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop. Some types of cooking, especially those that involve frying or sautéing with oil, need continuous attention.
When cooking a turkey or other items in the oven, stay in the home and check the oven regularly.
Set a timer on your stove or phone to keep track of cooking times, particularly for foods that require long cook times.
Keep things that can catch fire, like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels, away from direct contact with the cooking area.
Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that could come in contact with a heat source.
Always cook with a lid beside the pan. If a fire does occur, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover, because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time.
Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on a grease fire.
For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Only open the door once it is certain the fire is completely out, and stand to the side while doing so. If anyone has any doubts that a fire is out, contact the fire department for assistance.
Keep children at least three feet away from the stove and areas where hot food or drink is being prepared or served. Steam or spills from these items can cause severe burns.
“The pandemic may limit the number of people in homes this year, but there will still be lots of the usual cooking and distractions that contribute to a sharp increase in cooking fires on and around Thanksgiving,” said Carli. “Being vigilant in the kitchen remains critical to ensuring a fire-safe holiday.”