State Fire Marshall Offers Tips on Avoiding Turkey Day Fires
As the popularity of turkey frying increases, so does the concern about the number of fires caused by consumers deep frying turkeys, according to Acting State Fire Marshal Michael Deprez, who today discourages the use of outdoor, gas-fueled turkey fryers using hot oil, as they are simply not safe.
“Deep frying a turkey in several gallons of hot oil over 350 degrees is dangerous and often accounts for the higher number of house and garage fires reported during the holidays," said Deprez. "Those who do prefer fried turkey should buy it already professionally prepared or use the newer types of ‘oil-less’ electric or infrared turkey fryers that are much safer provided all instructions are followed carefully."
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, two-thirds (67 percent) of home cooking fires start when food or cooking materials catch on fire. More than half (55 percent) of home cooking fire injuries happened when people tried to fight the fire themselves. The average number of reported residential fires more than doubles on Thanksgiving Day compared to any other day of the year.
“Absolutely never use a propane-fired turkey fryer in a garage, on or under a deck, breezeway, porch or any structure that can catch fire,“ Deprez said. “Fryers use a lot of oil, about five gallons, and oil is highly combustible. Never overfill the fryer or you may get splash-back when putting the turkey in it. Oil spilling over the sides of the fryer onto the flames below is the most common way for grease fires to start.”
Deprez explained that vapors can ignite if the unit is heated beyond its cooking temperature of 350 degrees. If rain or snow hits the hot cooking oil, the oil may splatter or turn to steam, leading to burns. Since most units do not have automatic thermostat controls, oil may heat until it catches fire.
Safety precautions for turkey fryers include:
· Read and follow the manufacturer’s user guide.
· Completely thaw the turkey before placing it in the fryer.
· Place the fryer on a flat surface well away from walls, fences, or anything that could catch fire.
· Keep the fryer in full view while the burner is on.
· Never leave the fryer unattended and keep kids and pets away from the unit.
· Wear well-insulated oven mitts, a long-sleeved shirt, and safety goggles.
· Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.
Cooking in the kitchen has its own fire risks with stovetops and ovens working overtime. Inexperienced or busy cooks can become distracted trying to prepare several dishes while entertaining family and friends. Cooking fires can easily be prevented by following a few simple precautions.
· Cook with a clean stove and oven; remove all food and grease buildup.
· Look when you cook – keep an eye on your turkey, set a timer, and check on it frequently.
· Keep children away from the stove. Preferably use the back burners.
· Keep a flame-resistant oven mitt, potholder or lid nearby to smother any flames.
· Don’t wear clothing with loose-fitting sleeves that can catch fire or dangling jewelry that can snag on pot handles causing spills leading to severe scalds and burns.
· For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
· Have working smoke alarms in the home and have an escape plan that the entire family knows if there is a fire.
“Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it, whether you’re in the kitchen cooking or outside using a turkey fryer,” said Deprez. “Above all, don’t try and fight a fire yourself. Immediately call 9-1-1 in such emergencies.”
The Bureau of Fire Services wishes everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. Visit the Bureau of Fire Services website at www.michigan.gov/bfs for more fire safety information.