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Thanksgiving Safety Tips to Prevent Kitchen and House Fires

Guests should know your escape plan in case of fire. Be sure your smoke alarms are working and that a fire extinguisher is close to the stove before the cooks converge on your Thanksgiving gathering.

You've got the turkey thawed, the ingredients for a cranberry relish ready to mix -- you're all set to start cooking a Thanksgiving feast, right?

Not so fast. Is there a working fire extinguisher close to the stove? Have you removed clutter and holiday decorations from the kitchen?

According to the federal authorities, cooking is the leading cause of all Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings at 69 percent. Nearly all of these cooking fires (97 percent) are small, confined fires with limited damage.

While these safety and cooking tips may not make Thanksgiving dinner taste any better, they will help to avoid potential disaster:

  • Keep your family and overnight guests safe with a working smoke alarm on every level of the house, in each bedroom and in the halls adjacent to the bedrooms. Test smoke alarms monthly, and replace batteries at least once a year.
  • Have a fire extinguisher 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. Know how to use your fire extinguisher.
Safety Tips for Cooking the Feast
  • Start holiday cooking with a clean stove and oven.
  • Keep the kitchen off limits to young children and adults who are not helping with food preparations. This will lessen the possibility of kitchen mishaps.
  • When cooking, do not wear clothing with loose sleeves or dangling jewelry. Clothing can catch on fire and jewelry can become entangled with pot handles, causing spills and burns.
  • Cook on the back burners when possible, and turn pot handles inward so they don’t extend over the edge of the stove.
  • Never leave cooking unattended. If you must leave the kitchen while cooking, turn off the stove or have someone else watch what is being cooked. Unattended cooking is the number one cause of home fires and fire-related injuries.
  • If you use a deep fryer, please, exercise extreme caution and follow manufacturer instructions. The report from the USFA found that these cooking devices accounted for about 1 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires.
  • Keep Thanksgiving decorations and kitchen clutter away from sources of direct heat.
Candles/Smoking Dangers

Candles are often part of holiday decorations. The Fire/EMS 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.

If smoking is allowed inside, provide guests with large, deep ashtrays and check them frequently. After guests leave check inside, under upholstery, and in trash cans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering.

Overnight guests should be briefed on the home escape plan and designated meeting place outside.

Consider upgrading to a 10-year tamper proof with hush feature smoke alarm and never change a battery again.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's United States Fire Administration issued a special report recently examining the characteristics of Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings. The report, Thanksgiving Day Fires in Residential Buildings, was developed by USFA's National Fire Data Center.

The report is based on 2006 to 2008 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). According to the report, an estimated 2,000 Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 5 deaths, 25 injuries, and $21 million in property loss. 

The leading cause of all Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings is, by far, cooking. Additionally, smoke alarms were not present in 20 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires that occurred in occupied residential buildings.

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