RALEIGH — Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year for families and friends to get together, but this cooking-focused holiday also presents a greater risk of home fires.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), nearly four times as many home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving as on a typical day.
NFPA’s latest report shows that cooking is the leading cause of home structure fires and injuries in the U.S. states that reported cooking fires hit new highs in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
The report further states that home cooking fires peak on major U.S. holidays that traditionally include cooking, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In 2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,730 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving, the peak day for such fires.
Regardless of the date, unattended cooking is by far the leading cause of these fires and fire deaths.
“The data suggests that it’s often a combination of factors that contribute to an increased risk of home cooking fires on Thanksgiving,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “People are preparing multiple dishes for many guests and there can be plenty of distraction in the home, which can make it all too easy to forget what’s on the stove. That’s when cooking mishaps are most likely to occur.”
The following tips can help reduce the risk of cooking fires on Thanksgiving and beyond:
-Stay in the kitchen when cooking to keep a close eye on the food, especially when frying and sautéing with oil.
-Stay alert and focused when cooking. To help minimize the risk of injury, avoid cooking when drinking alcohol or if you’re sleepy.
-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 you can hear them over the music and party chatter.
-Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels away from the cooking area.
During the five-year period of 2010-14, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 166,100 home cooking fires per year. These fires resulted in 480 civilian deaths, 5,540 reported injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage per year. Overall, cooking equipment was involved in almost half (46 percent) of reported home fires and home fire injuries (44 percent) and one in five home fire deaths (19 percent).
Thanksgiving is also the time when many people like to experiment with frying turkeys. NFPA discourages the use of turkey fryers, which can lead to devastating burns and other injuries, and the destruction of property due to the large amount and high temperature of oil used. NFPA urges those who prefer fried turkey to look for grocery stores, specialty food retailers and restaurants that sell deep fried turkeys.
Additional tips and resources may be found at nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/wildfire-and-seasonal-fires/thanksgiving-safety. Other cooking safety information, including cooking safety tips sheet, cooking safety infographics, videos and more can be found at nfpa.org/cooking.