Cooking Safety: The Average Number of Kitchen Fires More Than Triples on Thanksgiving Day

Many fires start very quickly, but taking a few precautions can greatly reduce your risks this Thanksgiving

Cooking Safety: The Average Number of Kitchen Fires Triples on Thanksgiving Day
Image: NCCC
November 15, 2018

There's nothing wrong with having a roaring fire this Thanksgiving, but that fire should be in the fireplace, not in your kitchen. It's a sobering statistic, but the average number of kitchen fires more than triples on Thanksgiving Day as compared to any other average day. In fact, it is the worst day for cooking fires all year, so it's important to be mindful of how kitchen fires start and take the necessary precautions to stay safe.

Preventing Thanksgiving fires

Thanksgiving is all about gathering family and friends and cooking a big homemade meal together. With all of this cooking, the stress, and the crowded space comes an increased threat of fire. So to lessen the likelihood of a fire:

  • Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working as the first step. An early warning can keep a little bit of smoke from turning into a raging fire. Test them by pushing the test buttons.
  • Don't leave any cooking unattended. It is often the leading contributing factor in cooking fires and fire deaths. It can be very easy to become distracted by the amount of cooking and the added guests. If anything is cooking, you should be in the kitchen. We understand you might need to step away to use the bathroom or let the dog out, but don't leave home when anything is cooking.
  • Avoid loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves near ranges and ovens. It only takes a second or two for these clothes to catch fire.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire away from cooking surfaces. This includes paper towels, oven mitts, curtains, wooden and plastic utensils, etc.
  • Watch children closely so they do not come into contact with cooking food or hot stovetops. Don't forget that food you have removed from the oven or stovetop is hot, as well as the steam that comes from the oven. Those who have children know how easy it is for curious children to touch a hot surface. If you don't have experience with children and expect to have children in your home, take a moment to look around from the view of a child. Ask the parents if they see any potential hazards and ask for help to keep an extra eye on those little hands.
  • Turn pan handles toward the back of the stove to prevent someone from bumping the pan and spilling the contents. Spilled contents can ignite on hot surfaces, scald the chef, or scald young children and pets who happen to be nearby. A hot pot or pan can even melt or ignite certain floor or countertop surfaces depending upon the material and how hot it is. Even if nothing catches fire or anyone is scalded, it still causes a big mess that needs to be cleaned up.
  • If possible, keep the kitchen clear of people, pets, children, and objects. You don't want to be tripping over toys, stepping on a curious dog, or bumping into someone when handling hot foods or using the cooktop. It's best to keep everything and everyone out unless necessary.

Frying your turkey?

Frying your turkey comes with additional hazards and precautions. Since 2002, there have been nearly 170 turkey-fryer-related fires, burns, explosions, or carbon monoxide poisoning incidents, including 672 injuries and $8 million in property damage.

  • A turkey places into a fryer must be completely thawed and patted dry beforehand. A turkey that is even partially frozen can cause an explosion.
  • Never use a turkey fryer inside the house, garage, basement or other enclosed space. Place the fryer at least ten feet from the home and on level ground to keep the oil level.
  • Use as much oil as is required, but don't overfill it. You'll waste oil and it will take longer to keep the oil at the proper temperature.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended.
  • Keep children and pets away from the fryer. They can easily knock it over, causing a fire and serious injury.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher of ample size and the proper type nearby at all times. A garden hose won't cut it and can easily spread an oil fire.

If a fire happens

The majority of non-fatal fire injuries on Thanksgiving Day occur when people try fighting fires themselves. If a fire breaks out and you don't have a fire extinguisher on-hand or if the fire is too large, get everyone out of the house immediately. Call 911 when everyone is safe.

The majority of damage and liability for fires is covered under most homeowner insurance policies, so it's better to suffer the inconvenience of having the home repaired than suffering injury or dying.