BY ALEXANDRIA RANDOLPH
More than three times as many home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving Day as on a typical day of the year. That’s according to the latest U.S. Home Cooking Fires report released by the National Fire Protection Association, which shows there were 1,600 reported home cooking fires on Thanksgiving in 2017. That reflects a 238% increase over the daily average.
Unattended cooking was the leading cause of these fires.
The peak days for home cooking fires are Thanksgiving and Christmas, said fire protection experts.
In 2017, 58% more cooking fires were reported on Christmas Eve and 69% more were reported on Christmas Day than the daily average, the NFPA report stated.
“With people preparing multiple dishes, often with lots of guests and other distractions in and around the kitchen, it’s easy to see why the number of home cooking fires increases so dramatically,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “Fortunately, the vast majority of cooking fires are highly preventable with a little added awareness, and by taking simple steps to minimize those risks.”
According to the NFPA report, cooking is the leading cause of home fires year-round, accounting for almost half of all U.S. home fires (49%) and reported home fire injuries (45%). Cooking is the second-leading cause of home fire deaths, accounting for 22% of all fire deaths.
The report also shows that less progress has been made in reducing deaths from home cooking fires than deaths from most other fire causes. There were more cooking fire deaths from 2013-2017 than in 1980-1984, despite total home fire deaths falling by 46% over the period.
Lampasas Fire Marshal Ronnie Withers urges residents to install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.
“A carbon monoxide detector needs to be installed, especially if you have gas appliances,” he said. “You can get carbon monoxide from your fireplace also, if the chimney doesn’t get proper combustion.
“Make sure your chimneys are clean and operating properly,” Withers added. “It’s that time of year – we’re already getting cold weather.”
Lampasas Fire Department has a program to offer free smoke detectors for those in need of one. Visit the LFD station at 1107 E. Fourth St. for more information.
The NFPA and the U.S. Fire Administration offer these tips for holiday cooking:
• Never leave the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop. Some types of cooking, especially those that involve frying or sautéing with oil, need continuous attention.
• Avoid using too much heat. If you see smoke or the grease starts to boil, turn the burner off.
• When cooking a turkey, stay in your home and check on it regularly.
• Make use of timers to keep track of cooking times, particularly for foods that require longer cook times.
• Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels at least three feet away from the cooking area.
• Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that could come in contact with a heat source.
• Always cook with a lid beside the pan. If there is a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on the fire.
• For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Only open the door once you’re confident the fire is completely out, standing to the side as you do. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the fire department for assistance.
• Keep children at least three feet away from the stove. Kids should also stay away from hot foods and liquids, as steam or splashes from these items could cause severe burns.
• Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so no one can bump them or pull them over.
BY ALEXANDRIA RANDOLPH