When it comes to Thanksgiving, time spent with family and friends, and bellies full of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and a plethora of pies, most typically come to mind. What far fewer people know is that the November holiday lays claim to being the leading day of the year for U.S. home cooking fires.
In 2015, Thanksgiving had almost four times the average daily number of reported home structure fires caused by cooking with 1,760 incidents reported. That number reflects a 259% jump over the average number of fires per day. The day before Thanksgiving ranked as the second worst day for cooking fires with 75% more fires (860 incidents) than typically seen on an average day.
Between 2011 and 2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 170,200 home structure fires involving cooking equipment, which resulted in 510 civilian fire deaths, 5,470 civilian fire injuries, and $1.2 billion in direct property damage. Unattended cooking was, by far, the leading contributing factor in these fires and fire fatalities.
With so much going on around us, it’s important to keep these simple tips in mind when cooking, sautéing or baking:
- Stay in the kitchen when cooking to keep a close eye on the food, especially when frying and sautéing with oil.
- Use a timer to keep track of cooking times, most notably when cooking a meal that takes a long time like roasting a turkey, baking a roast or simmering. Check the stove or oven frequently. Consider putting timers in different rooms so that you can hear them over music, football games, and party chatter.
- Stay alert and focused when cooking. To help minimize the risk of injury, avoid cooking when drinking alcohol or if you’re sleepy.
- Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels away from the cooking area.
- Kids should stay 3 feet away from stovetops, as well as from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, or gravy could cause serious burns.
Although frying turkeys at Thanksgiving have become a popular trend, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) discourages turkey fryers because the hot oil used can often lead to devastating burns, other injuries, and the destruction of property. If you would like to enjoy fried turkey, the NFPA recommends that you turn to grocery stores, specialty food retailers and restaurants.
Additional tips and resources can be found on NFPA’s Thanksgiving webpage. General cooking safety information including safety tip sheets, infographics, videos and more can be found on NFPA’s Cooking Fire Safety Central webpage. Enjoy time with your loved ones and delicious food this Thanksgiving, and take the necessary steps to be safe!