Fire officials offer tips for safe holiday cooking

Nov. 20, 2012 @ 08:11 AM

With the holiday season kicking off in a few days with Thanksgiving, it’s important to know what to do if your culinary works of art become fire hazards. With some common sense, you can make sure tragedy does not come between you and the festive holiday you have planned.
Local fire officials remind everyone to have smoke detectors on every level of the house, in every bedroom and in the halls adjacent to the bedrooms. Test those detectors monthly and replace batteries at least twice a year.
Have a fire extinguisher available not more than 10 feet from the stove on the exit side of the room. Make sure that you know how to use your fire extinguisher. Remember the acronym ‘PASS’ – 1. Pull the pin, 2. Aim the extinguisher, 3. Squeeze the handle of the extinguisher to activate, and 4. Sweep the nozzle side to side at the base of the fire.
Keep the kitchen off limits to young children and adults who aren’t helping with the preparation. Cook on the back burners when possible, and turn the pot handles in. Also, do not wear dangling jewelry or clothing with loose sleeves while you’re cooking.
Never leave cooking foods unattended. If you must leave the kitchen while cooking, turn off the stove or have someone else watch what is being cooked.
If candles are part of your holiday decorations:
Make sure all candles are out before going to bed or leaving the house.
Place out of children’s reach and where guests will not accidentally brush against them.
Place candles in a sturdy fireproof candleholder where they cannot be knocked over.
The candle should not have combustible decorations around it.
If you plan to deep fry your holiday turkey, please keep in mind that the Underwriters Laboratories Inc. does not certify any turkey fryers due to an increasing number of fires related to the these fryers and without proper knowledge and training.
Many units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil from the cooking pot.
If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner or flames, causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.
Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect. This, too, may result in an extensive fire.
With no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
The lid and handles on the sides of the cooking pot get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.
The Caldwell County Fire Marshal’s Office does not consider turkey fryers to be a safe way of cooking the bird, but here are some precautions to take if you plan to use one:
Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.
Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
The National Turkey Federation recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.
Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.
“The fire service and its members want to make sure everyone has a very safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday,” said Caldwell County Fire Investigator Dino DiBernardi. “By following these easy fire safety tips, you will be more prepared to prevent unnecessary injuries and/or loss to person or property during the holiday season. Keep your family and friends as safe as possible and as always call your local fire department if you have specific questions, and for any emergency dial 911 immediately.”