Special to GUIDON
As families gather in kitchens across the country to cook Thanksgiving dinner, many are stepping into what can be one of the most hazardous rooms in the house if you don’t practice safe cooking habits.
According to data from the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 2,000 Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of five deaths, 25 injuries and $21 million in property loss each year.
The leading cause of all Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings is cooking. In addition, these fires occur most frequently in the afternoon hours from noon to 4 p.m. And unfortunately, smoke alarms were not present in 20 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires that occurred in occupied residential buildings.
Tips for cooking
USFA provides safety advice for you and your family over Thanksgiving. Below are some of the administration’s safe cooking tips:
— Make sure you have smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and in every bedroom. Test smoke alarms monthly, and replace them if they are 10 years old or older.
— Keep a close watch on your cooking. You should never leave cooking food unattended.
— Keep oven food packaging and other combustibles away from burners and heat sources.
— Heat cooking oil slowly and watch it closely; it can ignite quickly.
— Don’t wear loose sleeves while working over hot stove burners — they can melt, ignite or catch on handles of pots and pans spilling hot oil and other liquids.
— Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot foods are prepared.
— Keep a lid nearby to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.
If you plan to deep fry
USFA offers the following helpful tips to backyard chefs who plan to deep-fry a turkey for Thanksgiving:
— Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors and a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.
— Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
— Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental
— Never leave the fryer unattended. Most 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 can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
— To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
— Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
— Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
— The National Turkey Federation recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every 5 pounds in weight.
— Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If not, immediately call the fire department for help.
(Editor’s note: Information in this article is from the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Fire Administration.)