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10 Ways to Ensure Your Thanksgiving is Fire Safe

Cooked turkey in an oven tray
Turkey is involved in many of the home cooking fires that occur annually.


Thanksgiving is perhaps the most universally enjoyed holiday traditions of them all. And why wouldn’t it be? When you combine food, football, family and friends – not necessarily in that order – it makes for the perfect way to celebrate and enjoy a late-fall day with loved ones from near and far.

“Thanksgiving to Christmas is the peak period for home cooking fires.”

Holidays peak time for kitchen fires
For some celebrants, turkey and all the fixings may never reach the table due to cooking fires spoiling the festivities. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more kitchen fires are reported on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. Indeed, in 2015 – the most recent year that data is available – approximately 1,760 home cooking fires took place across the U.S., well ahead of Christmas and Christmas Eve as the two other days for home cooking-related fires.

“The distraction of holiday cheer can lead to various dangers during the holiday season,” warned Linsday Fisher, personal lines sales executive at PayneWest Insurance.

Fortunately, most of these hazards don’t impact anything besides what’s for dinner. However, they have been known to result in serious injuries, some of them fatal. Between 2011 and 2013, residential building fires reported on Thanksgiving Day led to 50 injuries, 10 people who died and $28 million in property losses, the U.S. Fire Administration reported. Most of these fires occurred between noon and 3 p.m, far earlier than when residential cooking fires typically take place throughout the year, which is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Cooking lead cause of Thanksgiving Day fires 
As might be expected, cooking is the main reason why Thanksgiving fires happen as often as they do, accounting for 72 percent of property losses from 2011 to 2013, according to the USFA’s estimates. Nine percent, however, are heating-related. Portland, Oregon, residents may recall a few years ago when a Thanksgiving morning chicken coop fire, started by a heat lamp, resulted in $35,000 in damages for two homeowners, East Portland News reported. Fortunately, no individuals were harmed.

For the most part, Thanksgiving Day fires transpire in the kitchen, typically when items are neglected on the stove or in the oven. Monitoring pots and pans is perhaps the best way to ensure fires don’t happen or quickly stifle them.

Here are a few other smart tips from the NFPA and American Red Cross to ensure your Thanksgiving Day feast goes off without a hitch:

1. Ensure all pot handles are turned in toward the stove so guests don’t accidentally run into them.

2. Make the kitchen a kid-free zone, as rambunctious children may mistakenly hit knobs or push buttons.

3. Always remain either in the kitchen or within range to monitor everything that’s on stove tops or in ovens, as 33 percent of cooking fires per year are associated with equipment not being watched over.

4. If you plan on frying your turkey, follow all the safety instructions that come with the kit. Also, NEVER fry a turkey indoors, as hot oil can spill over, causing the burner to flame up.

5. When frying, ensure the bird is completely thawed; a frozen bird increases the risk of “splash-over.” and can also cause explosions.

6. Grease is highly flammable, so keep cooking surfaces clean before and after cooking to prevent buildup.

7. Have a fire extinguisher within reach, checking to see that it’s functioning properly beforehand.

8. Examine your home’s smoke detectors to ensure they’re working, replacing the batteries if they haven’t been swapped out in a while. Roughly 25 percent of all smoke alarm failures stem from dead or inoperable batteries, according to the NFPA.

9. Check to see all flammable materials, such as dish rags, hand towels, oven mitts and food packaging, are well away from open flame.

10. Have your oven serviced by an appliance professional for safety assurance purposes and to ensure there is an even distribution of heat.

“At PayneWest, we want you to know that we are a resource for your family in the event of loss, particularly during this special time of year,” added Fisher.

PayneWest reminds you to be sure to update your homeowners insurance policy before the holidays. This way, you’ll know you’re covered should there be an accident.

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