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Home : News : News
NEWS | Nov. 6, 2017

Thanksgiving fire safety: food for thought

By Ricardo Campos, Fire Inspector/Life Safety Educator 502nd Civil Engineer Squadron

The countdown to turkey consumption is on the horizon. The arrival of Thanksgiving means countless of us will be searching our closets for stretchable pants, so we can prepare to feast on the tasty morsels of turkey!

Giving thanks and spending a day with loved ones, friends and neighbors is what this holiday is all about. But the jovial Thanksgiving meal can lead to fires while in the cooking process. By following a few simple safety precautions while in the kitchen, holiday revelers can avoid any fires that may lead to injuries, deaths or property loss.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, Thanksgiving Day is the high point of home-cooking fires. Fires are likely to occur about three times more during this time as any other day of the year. Thanksgiving Day can produce a surge of residential building fires that can result in millions of dollars in property damage, injuries and deaths.

What causes most Thanksgiving fires? Cooking attributed to more than 71 percent of fires. Leaving food unattended while it was cooking was the leading cause of Thanksgiving cooking fires, according to the NFPA. The timeframe for the highest incidence of cooking fires transpired between noon and 3 p.m.

With all the festivities going on in your home and visiting with friends and relatives, you may get distracted from keeping an eye on your food. Be aware to what’s going in the oven or on the stovetop. Give your complete attention to one dish at a time and this will help to keep food from burning and starting fires. Leaving cooking unattended is what brings cold sweats to firefighters across the nation.

Furthermore, if a pot catches on fire, never attempt to move it or pour water on grease or oil.  This splashing action might spread the fire. The best act is to put a lid on top of the pot to smother the fire, leave the pot where it is and turn the heat off when the fire has been suppressed.

The kitchen is not a safe place for children and pets during the cooking frenzy, so have activities for the kids during the busy times. Games, puzzles or books can keep them entertained and out of the way. Kids can get involved in Thanksgiving preparations with recipes that can be done outside the kitchen. Just as important is to keep pets out of the kitchen. Keep pets in a gated room.

NFPA officials believes, as currently designed, turkey fryers that use cooking oil are not appropriate for safe use by even a well-informed and vigilant shopper. The significant amount of cooking oil at high temperatures and units currently available for home use pose a noteworthy danger that hot oil will be released at some point during the cooking process.

In addition, the burners that heat the oil can ignite spilled oil. The use of turkey fryers by consumers can lead to devastating burns, other injuries and the destruction of property. NFPA officials urge 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."

But if you decide you want to try your hand at frying the turkey this year, take extra safeguards such as:

  • Keep the fryer away from the house and on even ground. The fryer should be set up more than 10 feet away from the home and on level ground to keep the oil even.
  • Completely thaw and dry the turkey first. Only fry a turkey after it has been fully thawed and dried off to reduce the possibility of splattering grease, which can ignite fires.
  • Keep children and pets away, and have a fire extinguisher nearby. The last thing you want on Thanksgiving Day is for a child or pet to knock over the fryer and get injured.

When people have tried to fight the fires themselves, the majority of non-fatal Thanksgiving Day fire injuries occurred. If the unspeakable was to occur and your home catches on fire and no fire extinguisher is available, your primary objective is to get everyone out of the house! Call 911 immediately.

For more information about Thanksgiving safety visit the National Fire Prevention Association website at or contact the fire prevention offices at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210-221-2727, at JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-2921, or at JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6915.