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Don't Burn the Bird (or the House) on Thanksgiving

Firefighters respond to about 155,000 cooking fires a year, according to federal statistics. Thursday marks the beginning of fire season—in the kitchen.

Don't Burn the Bird (or the House) on Thanksgiving

Whether you're making a turkey for the first time or the 50th, cooking the Thanksgiving Day feast should come with some warnings. 

Did you know firefighters respond to an average of 155,000 cooking fires a year, according to federal fire statistics. The United States Fire Adminstration reports 460 people die each year in such fires. Additionally, it says, there are nearly 5,000 injuries and $724 million in property damage.

"Thanksgiving is a common time of year for medical emergencies and cooking related fires," said Capt. Marc Stone, spokesperson for the Orange County Fire Authority. "Turkey deep fryers are very popular but can cause serious burns and fires if not used properly. Never put a frozen turkey in a deep fryer. Do not overheat the oil. Fill the oil level only to the point that it will not overflow when the turkey is applied. Set back the deep fryer from any structures or vegetation to prevent major fires."

Also, always stand by your pan while cooking in the kitchen to prevent fires or children from getting burns.

"Make sure you have a functioning fire extinguisher and smoke alarms. Call 911 if you have any type of fire or if people feel chest pain, have difficulty breathing, are choking or are injured," he said. "Last but not least, have a designated driver or prevent those that may be impaired to drive vehicles this holiday season."

Read the directions to your fire extinguisher and be aware of a peculiarity that can often make things seem more dire when using one; some extinguishers make the fire bigger before putting it out.

Here are some additional cooking safety tips from the USFA:

  • Make sure stovetops, burners, ovens, microwaves and other cooking appliances are clean and working properly. Don’t use extension cords for microwaves and other cooking appliances.
  • Keep flammable materials, such as pot holders, oven mitts, towels and cooking utensils, away from the stovetop. Avoid loose-fitting clothing that could catch fire from a gas flame or electric burner.
  • Turn off the burners when you leave the kitchen, even if you’re just gone for a short time.
  • Never leave the house with food cooking on the stove or in the oven.
  • Stay alert. Avoid cooking if you’ve been drinking alcohol or taking medication that makes you drowsy.
  • Keep an oven mitt and lid handy, in case a fire breaks out. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, carefully place the lid on the pan and turn off the burner. Leave the lid on the pan until it is cool, to prevent the fire from starting again.
  • If a fire occurs in an oven or microwave, turn it off and keep the door closed until the fire is completely out. Don’t use the oven or microwave until it’s inspected for damage.

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