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Thanksgiving cooking and fire safety

State Fire Marshal Charles Duffy reminds you that cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, with Thanksgiving being the peak day for cooking fires.

By Ken Dellsite, Deputy Washington State Fire Marshal. First published on November 24, 2013.

State Fire Marshal Charles Duffy reminds you that cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, with Thanksgiving being the peak day for cooking fires. 

Most home cooking fires are the result of the range or stove being left unattended.

The Office of State Fire Marshal offers the following cooking safety tips to prevent cooking fires:

  • Never leave cooking unattended.  If you leave the kitchen, turn the burner or oven off.
  • Watch what you are cooking, fires can start when the heat is too high. If you see any smoke or if any grease starts to boil, turn the burner off.
  • Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove.
  • Keep a pan lid or baking sheet nearby and use it to cover the pan if it catches on fire. This should put the fire out, or at least keep it under control.
  • Wear short sleeves or roll sleeves up.
  • Keep an ABC rated fire extinguisher in an accessible location.

Turkey fryer hazards

UL considers turkey fryers to be dangerous to use as they present numerous safety hazards to consumers. "We're worried by the increasing reports of fires related with turkey fryer use," says John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager of UL. "Based on our test findings, the fryers used to produce those great-tasting birds are not worth the risks. And, as a result of these tests, UL has decided not to certify any turkey fryers with our trusted UL Mark."

  • Many units easily tip over, spilling hot oil from the cooking pot.
  • If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit 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 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.

Important turkey fryer safety information

If you use a turkey fryer, please consider the following tips:

  • Turkey fryers should ONLY be used outdoors at 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 fryer is 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 may 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 (NTF) 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.

For more information on cooking safety, please visit the National Fire Protection Association at www.nfpa.org.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal is a Bureau of the Washington State Patrol, providing fire and life safety services to the citizens of Washington State including inspections of state licensed facilities, plan review of school construction projects, licensing of fire sprinkler contractors and pyrotechnic operators, training Washington State’s firefighters, and collecting emergency response data.

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