Keep holiday meals picture perfect

Thanksgiving peak day for cooking fires; Take precautions

Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. This can be devastating if these fires cause significant property damage or injury to the many family and friends who often surround the table during the holiday.

"Taking a few simple precautions can keep your holiday meals picture perfect," says Scottsdale Fire Chief Tom Shannon.

Unattended cooking is by far the leading contributing factor in home cooking fires. According to the most recent numbers from the NFPA, two-thirds of home cooking fires start with the ignition of food or other cooking materials. Ranges accounted for the largest share (60 percent) of home cooking fire incidents. Ovens accounted for 13 percent. “If you leave the kitchen while cooking, turn off the appliance or set reminder alarms to check the food,” Shannon suggests.  

Cooking can be a family affair but be cautious with children in the kitchen.  Children under 5 are more likely to be hurt by touching hot cooking equipment or scalded by hot liquids than by actual fire, according to stats from the NFPA. “Create a 5-foot safe zone around the oven and use the back burners first while cooking,” recommends Shannon.

Speaking of turkey fryers, special care needs to be taken to avoid severe burns. The fryer should be on a sturdy base. Consider the size and weight of the turkey so that the amount of oil does not overflow. Do not drop the turkey into the fryer. Ensure the turkey is completely thawed before placing it in the fryer. Although this appliance can make a delicious turkey, it also poses the greatest risk of most severe burns and property damage because of splashing and splattering of oil.

Finally, keep those fire extinguishers close by -- but also understand their limitations. Three of every five reported non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occurred when the victims tried to fight the fire themselves, says the NFPA.  If a fire starts, call 911. Getting the first responders headed your way helps reduce the risk of further injury or fire damage.

“The holidays are full of family, fun and festivities,” says Shannon. “Take special care to reduce injuries or fires.  But if something happens, our emergency responders will be there for you.”

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