Each year, nearly 4,300 fires in the United States occur on Thanksgiving Day causing 15 fatalities, about 50 injuries and nearly $27 million in property damage.
In fact, Thanksgiving Day fires in residential structures cause more property damage and claim more lives than residential structure fires on other typical days. Cooking is by far the leading cause of Thanksgiving Day fires in residences, and unattended food is the leading factor. How can we eat tons of great food, visit family and friends and be safe all at the same time?
Start Thanksgiving cooking with a clean stove and oven. While grease fires can occur at any time, it is more difficult to spread along a clean surface. Any time you cook, have the lid that fits the pan nearby.
If an unwanted fire breaks out, put your hand in an oven mitt, grab the lid and slide it over the top of the pan. Shut off the heat to the burner after you do this, and then have someone call the fire department. Even if you think you extinguished the fire, it may have extended behind a wall or into a cupboard.
If the fire is in the oven, keep the door closed and shut off the oven. This limits the amount of oxygen available and keeps the fire from growing. Many people open the oven door and are amazed to see the fire grow in intensity. Many people will want to remove the burning food from the home, and grab the pan and burn their hands and arms while trying to carry the item outside.
Cook on the back burners when possible and turn pot handles in towards the middle of the stove to avoid accidental bumps and spills. Never leave cooking unattended. If you have to leave for a short period, set a kitchen timer to remind you that you have food cooking in the kitchen. There are plenty of distractions when visitors are in the home.
Have a fire extinguisher near the kitchen. Statistically, you are more likely to have a cooking-related fire than any other type of fire. A properly working ABC-rated fire extinguisher near the cooking area makes great sense. Make sure all cooks in the house know how to operate the fire extinguisher if needed.
Keep decorations out of the main travel paths in the house. This avoids trip hazards, and can allow family members easy access to exits if needed due to a fire situation. In addition, keep decorations away from the cooking areas in the kitchen.
If you are expecting overnight guests, make sure that there are plenty of working smoke alarms in the home. Show your guests where the smoke alarms are, what they sound like, and where the family meeting place is in case of fire. This can be something the younger folks who live in the home can take the lead on.
A few moments spent of safety can free up your holiday to spend with family, friends and plenty of good food.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.