An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : News
NEWS | Nov. 21, 2023

Thanksgiving fire safety: food for thought

By Richard S. Campos JBSA Fire Safety Office

The countdown to consumption of turkey and all the trimming is on the horizon. The arrival of Thanksgiving also means many of us will be searching our closets for stretchy pants!

Giving thanks and spending a day with loved ones, friends, and neighbors is what this holiday is all about, but the Thanksgiving meal can lead to fires from the cooking process.

By following a few simple safety precautions in the kitchen, people can avoid any fires that may lead to injuries, deaths, or property loss.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, Thanksgiving Day has the highest number of home-cooking fire incidents. Fires are likely to occur about three times more on this day than on 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 is attributed to more than 71 percent of the fires. Leaving food unattended while it was cooking was the leading cause of Thanksgiving cooking fires, according to the NFPA. The main timeframe for cooking fires was between noon and 3 p.m.

With all the festivities in your home, such as visiting with friends and relatives, you may be distracted and not keep an eye on your cooking. Be aware of what’s in the oven or on the stovetop.

Give your complete attention to one dish at a time, this will help to keep food from burning and starting fires. Leaving unattended cooking is what brings cold sweats to firefighters across the nation.

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 also no place for children and pets during the turkey cooking frenzy. 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.

It’s equally important to keep pets out of the kitchen. Keep pets in a gated room or outside.

The NFPA believes 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 used 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.

Also, 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.

The NFPA urges those who prefer fried turkey to seek out professional establishments, such as grocery stores, specialty food retailers and restaurants to prepare the dish or consider a new type of oil-free 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.

It’s when people have tried to fight the fires themselves that the majority of non-fatal Thanksgiving Day fire injuries occurred. If the unspeakable occurs 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 Joint Base San Antonio 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.

(Editor's Note: This article first appeared online at on Nov. 22, 2022.)