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Staying safe in the kitchen: the most perilous room during Thanksgiving

By Richard S. Campos | JBSA-Fire Emergency Services | Nov. 7, 2018

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —

The focal point of any American home during Thanksgiving will be the kitchen. This can be one of the most perilous rooms in the home if sound practices in cooking are not observed.

The U.S. Fire Administration, or USFA, estimates 2,000 Thanksgiving Day fires in residential structures occur yearly in the United States. The leading culprit in these fires is cooking. These unattended fires most commonly transpire during the afternoon hour’s noon to 4 p.m. Twenty percent of the time during Thanksgiving smoke alarms were not present or not operational in an occupied home.

The USFA has provided the following safety tips this Thanksgiving:

·         Make sure you have a smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and in every bedroom. Test smoke alarms monthly and replace them if they are 10 years old or older.

·         Keep a close watch on cooking. Never leave cooking food unattended.

·         Heat cooking oil slowly and watch it closely, it can ignite quickly.

·         Don’t wear loose sleeves while working over hot stove burners. They can melt, ignite or catch on handles of pots and pans spilling hot oil and other liquids.

·         Have a “kid-free zone” of least three feet around the stove and areas where hot foods or drinks are prepared or carried.

·         Keep a lid nearby to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.

·         Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.

·         Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.

·         Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children.

Activities for kids:

The National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, recommends have activities that keep kids out of the kitchen during this busy time. Keep them busy by having games, puzzles or books. Kids can get involved in Thanksgiving preparations with recipes that can be done outside the kitchen.

Deep fried turkey:

Thanksgiving without the turkey wouldn’t be Thanksgiving.  A favorite Thanksgiving ritual in many households is deep-fried turkey. An overloaded fryer can easily tip over and set an entire house ablaze if used improperly.  Helpful tips to backyard chefs who plan to deep-fry a turkey for Thanksgiving, USFA offers the following tips:

1.      Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.

2.      Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.

3.      Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.

4.      Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.

5.      Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.

6.      To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.

7.      Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.

8.      Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.

9.      The National Turkey Federation, or NTF, recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.

10.  Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.

Recognizing that Thanksgiving is a time for food, fun and fellowship with loved ones as you sit down with family and friends, JBSA Fire Emergency Services wants people to be safe.

For more information about Thanksgiving safety, visit the National Fire Prevention Association website at http://www.nfpa.org/education or U.S. Fire Administration website at http://www.usfa.fema.gov or contact the JBSA fire prevention offices at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210-221-2727, JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-2921 or JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6915.