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Are you fire ready?

Take precautions this Thanksgiving to avoid kitchen, turkey fires

POSTED: November 16, 2012 1:00 a.m.

Preparing the Thanksgiving meal with family can be as much of a holiday tradition as actually eating the food.

But when everyone is mixing, mashing, and stuffing their favorite dishes, the kitchen can get a little disorderly.

“People get distracted and don’t pay attention because they’re enjoying their families and the next thing you know, the turkey is on fire,” said Lt. Beverley Walker, public educator for the Hall County Fire Marshal’s Office.

But a burned turkey isn’t the biggest threat to the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires. And cooking fires were the No. 1 cause of home fires and related injuries in 2011.

Walker said the main reason a kitchen fire occurs is because the cook gets distracted and leaves the food on the stove or in the oven unattended.

“People think I’m going to step away for just a minute and it turns into five minutes and then 10 minutes,” Walker said.

She said as a general rule, people should stay in the kitchen while they’re cooking, but if they have to leave the room, remember to turn down the temperature on the burner.

Walker suggests carrying an item like a wooden spoon out of the kitchen with them to serve as a reminder.

Of the various ways a fire can start in the kitchen, the NFPA said frying food poses the greatest risk.

Those who choose to fry their turkeys in a turkey fryer need to exercise caution and follow the manufacturers instructions carefully.

Turkey fryers should be used far away from buildings and other structures.

“We discourage the use of them because if you put a turkey that was not completely thawed in the fryer, fire goes everywhere,” Walker said.

Grease fires also pose a hazard in the kitchen. While water might seem like the obvious solution to fight any fire, in the case of a grease fire, it is the last thing to use. Water will actually cause the fire to spread more quickly.

Instead, use baking soda or a fire extinguisher. If the fire is small and still in the pan, place a lid on the pot and turn off the heat.

More than 50 percent of fires start on range tops according to the NFPA. Many fires could be prevented by keeping stove tops clean and clear.

Usually the smell of burning cookies left in the oven will prompt a person to quickly open the door and remove the charred treats.

If the food were to ignite however, opening the door will make the fire worse.

Fire needs oxygen, by keeping the oven door closed the fire has limited oxygen with which to grow.

Walker said families with small children should keep children out of the kitchen while cooking, in general. Children may want to help with the meal preparations but it only takes bumping the pot handle the wrong way to cause serious injury or even death.

Many families will have more company staying in their homes this holiday season. Families should share any evacuation and safety plans with their guests, especially any overnight guests, in the event a fire were to occur.

Walker said it’s fine for residents to attempt putting out a small fire themselves with fire extinguishers, but to be extremely careful. Make sure children and elderly members of the family are taken outside where it’s safe until the fire is completely out.

No matter the size of the cooking fire, Walker encourages anyone who isn’t comfortable putting the fire out to leave the house and call 911 immediately. In most cases, firefighters will arrive at the house within a few minutes to assist.


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