NASHVILLE – As Tennesseans gear up to spend a significant amount of time in the kitchen preparing holiday meals, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) reminds consumers to cook with care.
“As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” said State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur, especially those in the kitchen. Fortunately, by adding just a little safety awareness to holiday cooking, the season can remain festive and safe for everybody.”
In 2016, 18 percent of reported home structure fires in Tennessee involved cooking equipment. Those 2,021 fires resulted in 13 civilian fatalities, 54 civilian injuries, nine firefighter injuries and over $8 million of direct property damage according to the Tennessee Fire Incident Reporting System. Cooking is the third leading cause of fire fatalities in 2017 and consistently among the leading causes of Tennessee’s fire fatalities.
The SFMO encourages Tennesseans to keep these safety tips in mind as you prepare your holiday meal this season:
- To prevent cooking fires, you must be alert. You will not be alert if you are sleepy, have consumed alcohol, or have taken medicine or drugs that make you drowsy.
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling. If you have to leave the room, even for a moment, turn off the burner.
- Use a kitchen timer when boiling, simmering, baking, or roasting to remind yourself to check the cooking often.
- Use caution with turkey fryers. It is recommended that consumers utilize the oil-free models that are available or seek commercial professionals to prepare this entrée.
- Turkey fryers must always be used outdoors and a safe distance from buildings and other flammable materials.
- Never use turkey fryers indoors or on a wooden deck.
- Make sure the fryer is used on a flat surface to prevent accidental tipping.
- Never leave a turkey fryer unattended. Most fryer 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 for hours after use.
- To prevent spillover, do not overfill 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 thawed and dry before cooking. Ice or water that mixes into the hot oil can cause flare-ups. The National Turkey Foundation recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of weight.
- Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease or oil fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department by dialing 911.
For more home fire safety information or to download a free copy of the 2018 Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office calendar, visit tn.gov/commerce/fire-prevention.