Firefighters give safety tips for Thanksgiving cooking

WASHINGTON — Fire prevention experts are urging everyone who plans to cook a Thanksgiving meal to stay safe and keep their attention on the kitchen.

“It is the busiest day for kitchen fires,” said Anne Arundel County Fire Department spokesman Russ Davies. “By some estimates, there will be four times as many kitchen fires today as any other day during the year.”

The National Fire Protection Association said the number of cooking fires around the country typically spikes on Thanksgiving by nearly 250 percent.

“Unattended cooking is the leading cause of these fires,” said Davies. “If you stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking and keep an eye on things, it decreases the chance of you having a fire.”

If you plan to use a turkey fryer, you are increasing your odds of having a fire-related accident, experts say. The NFPA recommends that people do not use them. In fact, the organization said the devices “are not suitable for safe use by even a well-informed and careful consumer.”

“They come with a lot of inherent risks,” said Davies. “They can tip over and oil can boil over and catch fire.”

But if you do plan on using a turkey fryer, Davies recommends keeping the fuel source at least two feet away from the oil, keeping kids and pets at least three feet away from the fryer and keeping the fryer at least 15 feet away from houses, trees and fences.

“Certainly do not use them inside a house,” he said.

Other tips from the NFPA include:

  • Never leave food cooking on the stovetop unattended, especially when frying and sautéing with oil. Stay in your home while the turkey is cooking and check on it frequently.
  • Use a timer to keep track of cooking times, most notably when simmering, baking or roasting foods that require longer cook times. Check the stove or oven frequently.
  • Consider putting timers in different rooms so you can hear them over music and party chatter.
  • Keep things that can catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels at least three feet from the cooking area.
  • Push up shirt sleeves and avoid wearing billowy clothing that may come in contact with open flames or other heat sources.
  • Avoid cooking when drinking alcohol or using other substances, or if you’re sleepy.
  • Make sure children stay at least three feet away from all cooking areas, hot food and liquids to avoid burns.

“Thanksgiving is a festive but hectic holiday, where people are often preparing several dishes at once. They’re also entertaining friends and family with lots of other potential distractions,” said NFPA spokeswoman Lorraine Carli. “These factors all contribute to the increased likelihood of home cooking fires and underscore the importance of being extra vigilant in the kitchen.”

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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