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Prevent Thanksgiving Cooking Fires

The fire chief shares safety tips like stand by your pan and put a lid on it.

Whether we are ready or not…the holiday season is upon us.

As the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” and with a little hope (and some precautions) this can be a most joyous time for you and your families. Far too often this is not the case for many families. So, without trying to be a humbug, I am reminding everyone that the holidays can also be the most dangerous and deadly time of the year as well.

Sadly, it is a statistical fact that you are more likely to have a fire in your home on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year. The main culprit of course is cooking. In fact, nearly 70 percent of the fires that occur during the holiday season originate in the kitchen. In an effort to reduce this trend the Fire Marshall’s Office has announced two new cooking safety initiatives; Stand by your Pan and Put a Lid on it.

Holiday Cooking Safety

“Sadly, during the holidays we see a spike in cooking fires and injuries,” said State Fire Marshal Coan. Because cooking has long been the leading cause for home fires and injuries, the Department of Fire Services launched a statewide cooking fire safety public awareness campaign this fall to combat these fires and injuries. Television and radio public service announcements on cooking safety aired this fall, featuring local celebrity chef Ming Tsai.

Marshal Stephen D. Coan offers these tips to prevent cooking fires:

  • Stand by your pan, when cooking. Never leave food, grease or oils cooking on the stovetop unattended.
  • When simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while it’s cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Wear short or tight-fitting sleeves when cooking because loose fitting clothing can easily catch on fire.
  • Keep potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, towels, and other things that can catch fire, away from your stovetop.
  • Plug microwave ovens and other cooking appliances directly into an outlet, not an extension cord.

Marshal Coan offers these tips to react to cooking fires:

  • Put a lid on it. In the case of a grease fire on a pan, place the lid on the pan to smother the fire, and then turn off the heat. Water or fire extinguishers will not work. They will only spread the fire.
  • Never move a burning pan. You can be badly burned or spread the fire.
  • If your clothing catches fire, stop, drop and roll to put out the flames.
  • In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
  • If you have a microwave fire, immediately turn it off and keep the door closed.

Thanksgiving Deep Fried Turkey

Deep fried turkey, an idea that originated in the south, is becoming more popular throughout the nation due to the method’s ability to generate a moist turkey. These deep fry turkey cookers tend to be used on Thanksgiving as a new spin on the yearly turkey dinner. However, deep fry turkey cookers are very dangerous and can be deadly. “Five gallons of boiling oil or grease over an open flame hardly sounds safe or sane,” said Marshal Coan.

Many of these fryers are very unstable, particularly the tripod models, which can tip over and pour the scalding contents onto an unsuspecting person or cause a very large fire in seconds. These fryers also have other fire hazards, including the likelihood to overheat to the point of combustion and also the likelihood of the sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles to get dangerously hot, all due to the lack of thermostat controls in some fryers or the defective temperature controls of other fryers. Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a nonprofit group that safety certifies appliances, has declined to put its UL safety mark on any turkey deep fryer, due to the fire hazards they produce.

Other Helpful Holiday Hints

  • Start with a clean stove top and oven, free of grease or other combustible items.
  • Keep children out of the kitchen or away (at least 3 feet) from the stove or oven whenever possible.
  • Keep pot handles turned in, away from being bumped or grasped by children.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets, power strips or extension cords.
  • If an appliance feels overheated, smokes or gives off a strange odor unplug it immediately.
  • For more fire safety tips visit: www.nfpa.org or www.sparky.org (for kids).

Remember, if there is a fire; please don’t waste valuable time trying to fight it yourself. Never risk your life to protect property. If you have any doubt, just get out and stay out and leave the firefighting to us.

Call 9-1-1 immediately from a safe area.  Please follow these tips and help the along with the Department of Fire Services make Massachusetts a safer place and keep its citizens out of harm's way during the holidays.

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