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Prevent Turkey Day catastrophes by keeping safety first


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Published on: Wednesday, November 21, 2012

By Jim Davis

Each year on Thanksgiving Day, fires occur in more than 2,000 homes in the United States. Annually, Turkey Day fires cause an estimated average of five deaths, 25 injuries and $21 million in property losses.

“We have been very lucky over the last several years, most of the fires that occur on Thanksgiving Day have been small in nature, such as food on the stove or someone burns up their turkey,” said Mark Brady, chief spokesman for Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department.

Thanksgiving Day fires occur most frequently in the afternoon hours from noon to 4 p.m. — peaking from noon to 1 p.m. — as cooking gets underway.

Nearly all — 97 percent — of these cooking fires are small, confined fires with limited damage. Electrical malfunctions account for about 14 percent of these fires, and carelessness or other unintentional actions are among other causes. 

“We are now seeing a lot of families using outside turkey fryers to cook their turkey because of the fast cooking time,” Brady said.

Fire officials recommend fryers never be left unattended because most lack thermostat controls. Therefore, the oil continues to heat and can catch fire.

“If a family chooses to use a turkey fryer, (it) must be placed away from the house and not on a wooden deck,” Brady said. “There has been a large number of house fires resulting from turkey fryers in the United States.”

Brady added that fryers should be used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping and warns cooks to not overfill the fryer. Also, fire officials said to never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use because the oil inside can remain dangerously hot for hours. 

Fire officials recommend a fire extinguisher be available not more than 10 feet from the stove on the exit side of the room. A standard Class ABC multi-purpose dry chemical extinguisher is recommended.

Additionally, they recommend cooking on back burners whenever possible and turning pot handles inward so they don’t extend over the edge of the stove,

Cooking should not be left unattended. Unattended cooking is the No. 1 cause of home fires and fire-related injuries in Prince George’s County. Fire officials recommend turning off the stove or having someone else watch the cooking, if the cook must leave the kitchen.

Residents should keep Thanksgiving decorations and kitchen clutter away from sources of direct heat, too. Candles are often part of holiday decorations. The Fire Department strongly encourages the use of battery-powered candles and discourages the use of candles with an open flame.

If you use candles, they should never be left burning when you are away from home or after going to bed. Candles should be placed where children will not be tempted to play with them, and where guests will not accidentally brush against them. The candleholder should be completely non-combustible and difficult to knock over. The candle should not have combustible decorations around it.

Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Mashoor said, “Everyone needs to keep safety first, and, by doing so, our citizens, visitors and businesses can avoid tragedy and disruption of their holiday festivities.”

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