As hard as it may seem, Christmas is just a few weeks away. As such, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) urges the public to make fire safety a priority when preparing holiday meals.
The association’s latest Home Cooking Fires report shows Thanksgiving is the peak day for U.S. home cooking fires followed by the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
According to the report, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,630 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day 2019, three and half times an average day. Unattended cooking was by far the leading cause of associated fires and fire deaths.
Cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home and home fire injuries year-round, and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths.
“Thanksgiving and Christmas often involves cooking multiple dishes at once, which can be particularly tricky with lots of distractions in and around the kitchen,” Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at the NFPA, said. “From getting ready for guests and managing family needs to entertaining when everyone arrives – these types of activities make it all too easy to lose track of what’s cooking, and that’s where a lot of fires tend to happen.”
Carli notes the pandemic may still reduce the number of larger group gatherings in favor of smaller celebrations, which may mean more kitchens being used to cook holiday meals.
The NFPA offers these tips and recommendations for safely cooking this holiday season:
- Never leave the kitchen while cooking on a stovetop. Some types of cooking, especially those that involve frying or sautéing with oil, need continuous attention.
- When cooking a turkey, or other items in the oven, stay in your home and check on it regularly.
- Set a timer on your stove or phone to keep track of cooking times, particularly for foods that require longer times.
- Keep things that may catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels away from direct contact with the cooking area.
- Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that could come in contact with a heat source.
- Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on a grease fire.
- For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Only open the door once you’re confident the fire is completely out, standing to the side as you do. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the fire department for assistance.
- Keep children at least three feet away from the stove and areas where hot food or drink is being prepared or served. Steam or spills from these items can cause severe burns.
“Being vigilant in the kitchen remains critical to ensuring a fire-safe holiday,” Carli said.
In addition, NFPA strongly discourages the use of turkey fryers, as these can lead to severe burns, injuries and property damage. For a safe alternative, NFPA recommends buying deep-fried turkeys from grocery stores, food retailers and restaurants that sell them.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.