Prevent fires this Thanksgiving

Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving might be a great day for family, friends, food and football, but it’s the worst day in America for fires.

The National Fire Protection Association says there are three times as many home fires on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year, in large part because of cooking fires.

Fire Investigator Chuck Chapin of the Suffolk Fire Marshal’s Office recently offered tips for Thanksgiving hosts to avoid a cooking fire or other tragedy this year.

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“You’re more likely to have a fire in your home on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year,” Chapin said. “The song says, ‘it’s the most wonderful time of the year.’ It can be a dangerous time and a deadly time of the year as well.”

The cook should begin the day by ensuring the oven and stovetop are clean and free of nearby flammable items, such as paper towels or potholders, Chapin said.

While the meal is in process, cooks should remain in the kitchen and never leave the house, Chapin said.

“Don’t just put the oven on and leave the house,” he said. “You’re just setting yourself up.”

Establish a kids- and pets-free zone three feet around the stove and oven, Chapin said, and keep pot handles turned inward.

“They’re going to want to grab for things,” he noted.

To keep kids out of the kitchen, busy them in another room with a game or puzzles. If they want to help with the meal, have them do part of a recipe that does not involve knives or the oven, such as mixing the filling for deviled eggs.

Never leave lighters, matches or lit candles in the room where children are staying, Chapin added.

“They’re intrigued by what makes that pretty flame.”

Folks should also avoid electrical issues by not overloading outlets.

“If your breakers are tripping, there’s a reason why they’re tripping,” Chapin said.

In the event a fire does start on the stovetop, Chapin said, put a lid on the pot and turn off the burner if you can safely reach the switch. Never move the pot or put water on it.

If a fire starts in the oven, turn it off, keep the door closed and call 911, Chapin said.

“Don’t open it up and give it that opportunity to get some oxygen and come out of the oven and spread,” he said.

Cooks also should avoid wearing long, loose sleeves that can easily drop onto a burner and catch fire. If that does happen, remember to “stop, drop and roll,” Chapin said.

For those using turkey fryers, make sure to use it outdoors at a safe distance from buildings or other flammable materials, including wooden decks, Chapin said. Make sure it stands on a flat surface and do not leave it unattended. The turkey should be completely thawed when it goes in the fryer.

For any fire, Chapin said, call 911.

“Don’t be a hero,” he said. “Don’t risk your life or valuable time trying to fight it yourself. Get out, stay out and call 911. If you can put a lid on it, that’s great. If not, those things can be replaced. A human life can’t be replaced.”