Did you know, statistically, the risk of fire in the home is greater during Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanuka holidays than any other time of the year? In this article we examine potential fire hazards in the kitchen and what you can do to prevent them.
Let’s get real for a moment… thinking that a residential fire couldn’t happen to you is probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make, especially during the Holiday season.
According to NFPA research, “Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries [in the United States]. Cooking fires also cause roughly half a billion dollars in direct property damage to the homes and the belongings inside.”
Statistics also show that the months of December through January have the highest incidences of residential fires and Thanksgiving Day having the highest incidents for cooking-related fires in the home.
Kitchens are the leading area of origin for fires at 40% and most kitchen fires are preventable.
Most of these fires can be avoided by simply becoming more aware of situations that might occur and educating yourself on potential fire hazards. Below we’ve listed some tips that will help make your Holiday cooking experience a safer one for you and your family.
Safety in the Kitchen
Don’t leave frying, grilling, or broiling food unattended. If you must leave the kitchen for a period of time, turn off the stove. Unattended items can boil over onto the heat source and catch fire.
Another reason for not leaving your stove unattended is because children in the house may be able to reach overhanging pots and pans and tip them over. When using pots on the stove, turn the handles away to prevent avoidable accidents.
Also, materials such as paper, cooking mitts, wooden utensils, plastic bags, and other packaging items should be kept at a safe distance from the stove as well.
While cooking, make sure you don’t wear clothing that could potentially catch on fire (ie. sleeves or clothing that dangles or is too loose).
Large Turkey Fryers
One of the more popular ways to cook turkey over the past few years is by frying it in in a large pot filled with two to three gallons of oil cooked over an open flame.
If unattended, the oil may boil over and catch fire. Extinguishing grease fires can be extremely difficult. Add a couple gallons of grease and you have the potential for a dangerous situation.
Because this cooking method is normally performed outside, another potential hazard is rain or snow. When a water source, such as rain or snow, comes into contact with hot oil, it has a tendency to spatter and pop.
This combustion can cause serious burn injuries and if the oil spills over as a result, can catch fire on the open flame below.
If you are going to cook outside, put the pot in an area that has some sort of covering, such as a high canopy. Of course, you don’t want to place it under a canopy so low that it can catch fire.
Once the fryer is set in place, don’t move it as you take a risk in spilling the oil over the open flame. Numerous fires have ignited when fryers were moved indoors (ie. a garage) to get the fryer out of the rain.
When removing the turkey from the hot oil make sure you are using the proper utensils so it will not fall back into the fryer and splash oil onto the flame source.
Wear Appropriate Safety Protection and Clothing
Whenever working with anything hot, especially oil, make sure you have the proper protection near you at all times. Heavy-duty oven gloves, aprons, and sometimes even safety glasses are good choices when using a large deep-fryer or turkey fryer.
All in all, if you are going to fry a turkey, take extra precautions to avoid unnecessary accidents.
Using a Grill
According to a 2005 NFPA study, fire departments responded to an estimated 8,300 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecue pits.
When using an outdoor grill the NFPA recommends you follow these guidelines:
- Use your grill outside only.
- Periodically clean the grill to remove grease or fat buildup in the trays underneath.
- When your grill is in use, it should be kept in an open space, away from anything that might catch fire, including siding, deck railings, eaves, or tree branches.
- Keep your grill away from play areas or places with high foot traffic.
- Never leave a lit grill unattended.
- Using long-handled cooking utensils will help prevent burns.
- Each year, check your propane cylinder hose for leaks. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. Bubbles will reveal escaping propane.
- If you use a charcoal grill, be sure to store starter fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
- Never add charcoal starter fluid to coals or kindling that you’ve already ignited.
Be Prepared For the Worse
By simply keeping your guard up and being aware of the potential dangers of cooking, you’re headed in the right direction. Most of these accidents are avoidable and my guess is that people who have experienced cooking-related fires will tell you tell you, “if I had only been paying more attention…”
If you don’t already have one, purchase a dependable fire extinguisher for your kitchen. Make sure you read the label to insure that the unit matches the types of fire you’ll be dealing with. We will talk more about the different fire extinguishers in another article.
We’re not saying to be on pins and needles during the holidays. Just using some common sense and following these safety guidelines can mean the difference between have a safe holiday season and a tragic one.
If you would like more great tips on fire prevention, please visit The National Fire Protection Association, There you will find hundreds of articles and tips concerning fire safety.
And if you would like to contact us or speak to one of our knowledgeable sprinkler or fire alarm consultants, please feel free to call us at 281-409-9524.
Have a safe and happy holiday season!