Nearly four times as many home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving as on a typical day, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
In fact, a recent report by the NFPA shows that home cooking fires peak on major U.S. holidays that traditionally include cooking, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. In 2014, the nation’s fire departments responded to an estimated 1,730 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving, the peak day for such fires.
Cooking is the leading cause of home structure fires and injuries in the U.S., and cooking fires hit new highs in 2012, 2013, and 2014, according to the report.
“The data suggests that it’s often a combination of factors that contribute to an increased risk of home cooking fires on Thanksgiving,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “People are preparing multiple dishes for many guests, and there can be plenty of distraction in the home, which can make it all too easy to forget what’s on the stove. That’s when cooking mishaps are most likely to occur.”
She offered the following tips to reduce the risk of cooking fires on Thanksgiving and beyond:
• Stay in the kitchen when cooking to keep a close eye on the food, especially when frying and sautéing with oil.
• Stay alert and focused when cooking. To help minimize the risk of injury, avoid cooking when drinking alcohol or if you’re sleepy.
• Use a timer to keep track of cooking times, most notably when cooking a meal that takes a long time, like roasting a turkey, baking a roast or simmering. Check the stove or oven frequently. Consider putting timers in different rooms so you can hear them over the music and party chatter.
• Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, and towels away from the cooking area.
Thanksgiving is also the time when many people like to experiment with frying turkeys. Carli said NFPA discourages the use of turkey fryers, which can lead to devastating burns and other injuries, and the destruction of property due to the large amount and high temperature of oil used. She urged those who prefer fried turkey to look for grocery stores, specialty food retailers, and restaurants that sell deep-fried turkeys.
During the five-year period between 2010-2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 166,100 home cooking fires per year. These fires resulted in 480 civilian deaths, 5,540 reported injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage per year. Overall, cooking equipment was involved in 46 percent of reported home fires, 44 percent of home fire injuries, and one in five home fire deaths.
Additional tips and resources can be found on NFPA’s Thanksgiving webpage.