As many put their turkeys into the oven and fill up their stove tops with pots filled with side dishes, local fire officials are urging cooks to be cautious this Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season so that a family gathering might not be ruined right along with dinner.
Adon Snyder, fire chief for the Clinton Fire Department, has offered safety tips in an effort to ensure all residents enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving. It is a time when fire safety is often overlooked, but by keeping it in mind, making a horrible holiday memory might be averted.
“Everyone needs to keep safety first, and by doing so our citizens, visitors and businesses can avoid tragedy and disruption of their holiday festivities,” Snyder said.
Snyder pointed to a special report issued recently by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) United States Fire Administration (USFA) examining the characteristics of Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings. The report, entitled “Thanksgiving Day Fires in Residential Buildings,” was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center.
The report is based on 2006 to 2008 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). According to the report, an estimated 2,000 Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 5 deaths, 25 injuries and $21 million in property loss. The leading cause of all Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings is, by far, cooking, said Snyder. Additionally, smoke alarms were not present in 20 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires that occurred in occupied residential buildings.
While safety and cooking tips may not make Thanksgiving dinner taste any better, they may help avoid potential disaster, Snyder noted. He offered the following tips to help ensure a safe Turkey Day:
• Keep your family and overnight guests safe with a working smoke alarm on every level of your home, in each bedroom and in the halls adjacent to the bedrooms. Test smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries at least once a year.
• Overnight guests should be instructed on your home’s fire escape plan and designated meeting place for your family.
• Have a fire extinguisher available not more than 10 feet from the stove, on the exit side of the room.
• A standard class ABC multi-purpose dry chemical extinguisher is recommended. Know how to use your extinguisher.
• Start the holiday cooking with a clean stove and oven.
• Keep the kitchen off limits to children and adults who are not helping with food preparations. This will lessen the possibility of kitchen mishaps.
• When cooking, do not wear clothing with loose sleeves or dangling jewelry. Clothing can catch on fire and jewelry can become entangled with pot handles, causing spills and burns.
• Cook on the back burners when possible, and turn pot handles inward so they don’t extend over the edge of the stove.
• Never leave cooking unattended. If you must leave the kitchen while cooking, turn off the stove or have someone else watch what is being cooked. Unattended cooking is the number one cause of home fire and fire-related injuries. According to the USFA, cooking is the leading cause of all Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings, at 69 percent. Nearly all of these cooking fires — a whopping 97 percent — are small, confined fires with limited damage.
• If you use a deep fryer, exercise extreme caution and follow manufacturer instructions. The report from the USFA found that these cooking devices accounted for about 1 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires.
• Keep Thanksgiving decorations and kitchen clutter away from sources of direct heat.
• Candles are often part of holiday decorations. The Clinton Fire Department strongly encourages the use of battery-powered candles and discourages the use of candles with an open flame. If you use candles, they should never be left burning when you are away from home, or after going to bed. Candles should be placed where children will not be tempted to play with them, and where guests will not accidentally brush against them. The candleholder should be completely non-combustible — sans combustible decorations around it — and difficult to knock over.
• If smoking is allowed inside, provide guests with large, deep ashtrays and check them frequently. After guests leave, check inside, under upholstery and in trash cans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering.
• Overnight guests should be briefed on the home escape plan and designed meeting place outside.
Snyder is aware that many do not think much, if at all, about fire safety during the holidays, but urged them to at least put into practice some of the tips so that they might not get a visit from the Clinton Fire Department this year.
“Holiday season is coming up — just think fire safety,” said Snyder. “Especially Thanksgiving and Christmastime, it’s a time of family gatherings and often times we don’t consider or think about safety first. That’s usually when something tragic happens, and we would like to try and avoid that if we could.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.