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State Fire Marshal: Cook safely this Thanksgiving season

From Staff Reports

As families prepare to gather for Thanksgiving Day feasts this Thursday, November 24, the State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) urges Tennesseans to avoid careless cooking habits that can lead to fires.

Cooking safety is a key component to the SFMO’s recently launched holiday safety campaign, developed in response to an annual increase of home fires during the holiday season.

“The excitement of a Thanksgiving get-together can lead to distractions for holiday cooks,” said State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “We encourage Tennesseans to cook with care this Thanksgiving to avoid a devastating fire. Pay attention in the kitchen, and if using a turkey fryer, take all necessary safety precautions to protect yourself, your family, and your property.”

National and state statistics show Thanksgiving is the leading day for home fires involving cooking equipment. An estimated 2,000 Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings are reported to U.S. fire departments each year according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Here in the Volunteer State, 29 percent of reported home structure fires in 2015 involved cooking equipment. Those 2,077 fires resulted in seven fatalities, 44 civilian injuries, and over $11 million of direct property damage according to the Tennessee Fire Incident Reporting System.

The SFMO offers these safety tips as a reminder to cook smart this year:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, boiling, grilling or broiling. If you have to leave the room, even for a moment, turn off the burner.
  • Use a kitchen timer when boiling, simmering, baking, or roasting to remind yourself that you are cooking.
  • Use caution with turkey fryers. Oil-less models are available that use infrared heat, rather than oil, to cook the turkey.
  • Never leave a turkey fryer unattended. Most fryer units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer, even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot for hours after use.
  • To prevent spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
  • Make sure the turkey is thawed and dry before cooking. Ice or water that mixes into the hot oil can cause flare-ups. The National Turkey Foundation recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of weight.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease or oil fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department by dialing 911.

For more information on making your home fire-safe, download and print the State Fire Marshal’s home fire safety checklist. Tennessee residents can request a free smoke alarm by visiting