Beware of fire when cooking for Thanksgiving

COVINGTON -- Along with all the happy traditions associated with Thanksgiving, a not-so-happy one has slipped in -- cooking fires. And one of the main culprits of Thanksgiving cooking fires is the turkey fryer.

The National Fire Prevention Agency, in fact, discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil, according to a press release issued by them.

"These turkey fryers use a substantial quantity of cooking oil at high temperatures, and units currently available for home use pose a significant danger that hot oil will be released at some point during the cooking process," the release states. "The use of turkey fryers by consumers can lead to devastating burns, other injuries and the destruction of property. NFPA urges those who prefer fried turkey to seek out professional establishments, such as grocery stores, specialty food retailers, and restaurants for the preparation of the dish, or consider a new type of 'oil-less' turkey fryer."

However, if turkey frying is now part of your Thanksgiving tradition, there are safety precautions that should be taken.

"Every year since turkey frying became popular, Newton County has had incidents involving turkey frying and fire during the holiday season," said Newton County Fire Service Fire Safety Educator Lt. Cydnie Taylor.

Taylor warns that the best way to prevent a fire or burns when using a turkey fryer is to closely follow the manufacturer's instructions for the fryer and to follow all fire safety rules.

Taylor said weather is a prime consideration when cooking your turkey outside and referred to the NFPA release which warns: "Propane-fired turkey fryers are designed for outdoor use, and if rain or snow strikes exposed hot cooking oil, the result can be a splattering of the hot oil or a conversion of the rain or snow to steam, either of which can lead to burns.

"Use of propane-fired turkey fryers indoors to avoid bad weather is contrary to their design and dangerous in its own right. Also, moving an operating turkey fryer indoors to escape bad weather is extremely risky. Fires have occurred when turkey fryers were used in a garage or barn or under eaves to keep the appliance out of the rain."

Also, placing the turkey into the oil also poses a danger, according to NFPA.

"The approximately 5 gallons of oil in these devices introduce an additional level of hazard to deep fryer cooking, as does the size and weight of the turkey, which must be safely lowered into and raised out of the large quantity of hot oil," the release states. "Many turkeys are purchased frozen, and they may not be fully thawed when cooking begins. As with a rainy day, a defrosting turkey creates the risk of contact between hot cooking oil and water."

Also, Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph T. Hudgens urges Georgians to use caution with holiday cooking in general.

"In past years we have had numerous fatal fires which were cooking-related," Hudgens said. "Many fires are caused by a stove that has been accidentally left on."

Hudgens suggested the following tips for cooking safety:

-- Always set a timer when cooking, so you never forget to turn off the burners or oven.

-- If a pan catches fire, cover it with a lid immediately and turn off the burner. Do not attempt to fight a grease fire with water, as it may make the fire worse.

-- For an oven fire turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

-- Wear tight-fitting sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can make contact with a burner and ignite. If this happens, remember "stop, drop and roll." Stop where you are, drop to the ground, and roll over to smother the flames with your hands by your side if your sleeve is on fire.

-- Never use a cooking stove to heat your home.

-- Install an adequate number of smoke alarms. Most fatal fires start between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., while the family is asleep. The advance warning of a smoke alarm may mean the difference between life and death. Nine out of 10 fire victims are already dead before the fire department is even called, mainly from smoke and toxic gases.

-- Each household should have a wellrehearsed family escape plan. All rooms, especially bedrooms, should have two escape routes. Have a predetermined meeting place outside the house to ensure everyone is out safely.

-- Have a fire extinguisher readily available and be familiar with the instruction on how to use it before it may be needed. An ordinary dry chemical extinguisher is usually safe for both grease and electrical fires. If a small fire is caught in time, you may be able to quickly put it out, but be sure others are getting out and you too have a clear way out.

* If the fire is too large for an extinguisher, get out of the house and stay out. Do not go back inside. Call the fire department from a neighbor's house and then go to your family meeting place.