COVINGTON — It happens every year. People set their house on fire or are severely burned while trying to prepare a Thanksgiving feast for their family. Last year the Newton County Fire Service was called to a home to extinguish a fire on the back deck that occurred due to improper turkey frying, according to Fire Safety Educator Lt. Cydnie Taylor.
In fact, Thanksgiving is the top day for cooking fires nationwide with three times as many cooking fires reported when compared with an average day. Firefighters are urging the public to take precautions so they won't become part of the statistics.
Taylor cautions that turkey fryers are a growing cause of Thanksgiving fires. Often the cause is related to oil reaching excessive temperatures or the oil contacting the open flame of the fryer. Victims frequently suffer burns when the oil is splashed onto those standing near the cooker.
"The majority of reported incidents occur while the oil is being heated, prior to adding the turkey," she said. "For this reason, it is very important consumers monitor the temperature of the oil closely. If any smoke at all is noticed coming from the heating pot of oil, the burner should be turned off immediately because the oil is overheated."
She offers the following fire safety tips as provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
• Place fryer in an open area away from all walls, fences or other structures.
• Never use in or under a garage, breezeway, carport, porch or any structure that can catch on fire.
• Raise and lower food slowly to reduce splatter and avoid burns.
• Cover bare skin when adding or removing food.
• Check the oil temperature frequently. If oil begins to smoke, turn gas off.
• If a fire occurs, immediately call 911. DO NOT attempt to extinguish the oil fire with water.
• Make sure there is at least 2 feet of space between the propane tank and fryer burner.
• Position the cooker so that the wind blows the heat of the fryer away from the gas tank.
• Completely thaw (USDA recommends 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds) and dry turkey before cooking. Partially frozen and/or wet turkeys can produce excessive hot oil splatter when added to the oil. A frozen turkey can explode.
• Follow manufacturers instructions on the amount of oil to add to the fryer. If those are not available, follow this procedure:
a) Place turkey in pot
b) Fill with water until the turkey is covered by about 1⁄2 inch of water
c) Remove and dry turkey
d) Mark water level. Dump water, dry the pot and fill with oil to the marked level.
But the kitchen and traditional stove tops can also be dangerous. According to the National Fire Protection Association, unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in cooking equipment fires. They offer these tips for the cook who is preparing this year's feast and may become distracted:
• Be alert! If you are sleeping or have consumed alcohol, don't use the stove.
• Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• If you are simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while the food is cooking and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
• Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, utensils, packaging, towel or curtains away from the stove top.
In the event of fire, here's what they recommend:
• Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
• Call 911 after you leave.
• If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
• Keep a lid nearby when you're cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stove top. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
• For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.