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Fire officals offer turkey fryer safety tips

COVINGTON — Tables will be set Thursday with sweet potatoes, dressing, green bean casseroles and other holiday favorites, and for many people, nothing beats a fried turkey. Before cranking up the heat on the oil, though, local fire officials have some words of caution to ensure that the turkey remains the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal.

“Every year, there are always fires related to turkey fryers, with people not knowing the proper way to cook with them,” said Covington Fire Department Fire Educator Jonathan Fuqua. “There are really no instructions on how to use a turkey fryer correctly.”

Lt. Chris Kozikowski with Rockdale County Fire Rescue said that there are approximately 1,000 fires reported on Thanksgiving Day across the nation each year due to turkey fryers, which result in about $15 million in damages, based on estimates from the National Fire Protection Association.

“No one wants their holiday season to involve tragedy, so I ask that everyone just slow down and take the necessary precautions when cooking their turkey this year,” Kozikowski said.

State Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens reported recently that 15 fatalities in Georgia have been been caused by cooking-related fires.

Fuqua said one of the most common problem with frying turkeys is that people will overfill the oil, causing hot oil to spill out when lowering the turkey inside the pot.

“We recommend first filling the turkey fryer with water and dropping the turkey in to see how much oil will be necessary,” Fuqua said.

Before filling the turkey fryer with oil, however, he stressed to completely dry the turkey and the inside of the fryer. The reason, he said, is the same reason it’s important to make sure the turkey is fully thawed before cooking: oil and water don’t mix.

“If you put water on oil, it causes steam conversion, which is what makes the oil blow out of a pot,” Fuqua said. “Water sinks to the bottom and starts boiling and it throws the oil out.”

To help the turkey-frying public, the Covington Fire Department has issued an online public service announcement that can be accessed via YouTube and the Covington Fire Department’s Facebook page that shows the right – and the wrong – way to fry a turkey.

The following are some other tips for safe turkey frying:

• Keep fryer in full view while burner is on as well as as after cooking until the grease is completely cooled;

• Place fryer on a level place, away from the house, garage or deck, as well as away from all walls, fences or other structures;

• Raise and lower food slowly to reduce spatter and avoid burns;

• Cover bare skin when adding or removing food;

• Check oil temperature frequently;

• Turn off flame just prior to dropping turkey into the oil. Once turkey is dropped in the oil, it is safe to relight the burner;

• Make sure there is at least 2 feet of space between the liquid propane tank and fryer burner;

• If oil begins to smoke, immediately turn gas supply off;

• If a fire occurs, immediately call 911. Do not attempt to extinguish the fire with water.

According to a press release from Insurance Commissioner’s Office, the following are some basic cooking safety tips, even when not using a turkey fryer:

• Always set a timer when cooking, so you won’t forget to turn off the burners;

• If a pan catches fire, immediately cover with a lid and turn off the burner. Do not fight grease fires with water;

• Wear tight-fitting sleeves when cooking;

• Never use a cooking stove to heat the home;

• Install an adequate number of smoke alarms and make sure batteries are fresh.