Still #1: Thanksgiving Cooking Fires

November 15, 2012

Year-to-date, the City of Madison Fire Department has responded to almost 300 cooking fires in 2012, for a total of $630,956 in property damage, 11 civilian injuries, and 3 firefighter injuries.

Next week will likely see a spike in that number. Thanksgiving Day remains the peak day for cooking fires. Thanksgiving mixes a variety of cooking styles and techniques with a multitude of distractions. Unattended or careless cooking is by far the leading contributing factor in cooking equipment fires.

Cooking fires make up about 44% of reported home fires, 16% of home fire deaths, and 40% of home fire injuries.

The kitchen is the heart of the home, especially at Thanksgiving. Kids love to be involved in holiday preparations. Safety in the kitchen is important, especially on Thanksgiving.

To reduce the risk of cooking fires this holiday, the MFD recommends the following safety tips:
• Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
• Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
• Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay 3 feet away.
• Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
• Keep the floor clear so you don't trip over kids, toys, purses or bags.
• Keep knives out of the reach of children.
• Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
• Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children - up high in a locked cabinet.
• Never leave children alone in room with a lit a candle.
• Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

If you have a cooking fire…
• Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
• Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
• If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear path (to your way out of the home and someone has called the fire department).
• Keep a lid nearby when cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
• For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

Outdoor fryers heat gallons of cooking oil to very high temperatures to cook the turkey. The risk of this oil being spilled is significant, and the injuries resulting can be severe.
• The fryers are often bumped or tipped over when the turkey is put in or taken out, presenting a greater risk for the oil to splash or spill. Outdoor fryers that come with a stand pose the greatest risk of tipping.
• The oil is heated to such a high temperature for frying that the vapors may ignite, resulting in a fire.
• Use of a turkey fryer during rain or snow, increases the risk of injury. When rain or snow hits the hot oil, the oil can splash or turn to steam, causing burns.
• Fires often ignite when fryers were moved indoors or into a garage to keep the appliance out of the rain.
• Moving the turkey from the fryer to a serving plate presents another chance of contact with hot oil.
• Turkeys that are not completely thawed may cause the oil to splash, which can cause burns.

  • Lori Wirth, (608) 266-5947