Out of the frying pan and into the fire:
Cooking fires never take a holiday and Thanksgiving has the unique distinction of being the only day of the year with the most fires, about three times more than average. In recent years, deep-fried turkeys have been growing in popularity, but the unique flavor comes at great risk to life and property, according to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM).
Tests performed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and many fire departments have shown that the deep fryers tend to be top-heavy and have a risk of tipping over, overheating, or spilling hot oil, leading to fires and burns. The cooking process requires that five gallons of cooking oil be superheated before lowering the turkey into the pot. When a frozen, cold or even wet turkey is submerged, bubbling hot oil spills over the pot’s rim and onto the burner causing an explosion. If the appliance is in or near a home, the resulting fire may be impossible to manage.
“Turkey fryer dangers are so great, even UL will not certify the appliances with their seal of approval,” said Larry Matkaitis, Illinois State Fire Marshal.
“With the use of stoves, grills, and now turkey fryers, cooking continues to be the leading cause of U.S. home fires and fire injuries.”
OSFM offers the following holiday cooking safety tips:
• Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
• Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
• Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop. If you have a cooking fire, remember the following information:
• You have only a few moments to either put out a grease fire or escape.
• Grease fires can be smothered with baking soda, but it takes a lot of baking soda to do the trick. Unless the baking soda is easily accessible, it’s usually easier to quickly find a lid.
• A dry chemical fire extinguisher will also work, but it will contaminate your kitchen and food. Class K fire extinguishers are available to put out grease and other kitchen fires, but they are usually only found in commercial kitchens.
• Keep a non-glass lid nearby when cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave pan covered until it has cooled.
• If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
• DO NOT PUT WATER ON A GREASE FIRE! Pouring water on burning grease or oil will not extinguish the fire. Burning oil will splash, spreading the grease fire over a larger area.
• Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number.
• If covering the fire doesn’t work, get out a quickly as possible and close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
• For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
• If clothes are caught on fire; STOP, DROP, and ROLL to extinguish them.
• Treat any burns only after the fire is contained or the building is completely evacuated. Call for paramedics for serious burns. For more information about fire safety and prevention, please visit www.state.il.us/osfm or www.nfpa.org.