GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - While many consider Thanksgiving a day for enjoying delicious meals with family and friends, it's also the leading day for home cooking fires in the United States.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2015, four times as many home cooking fires took place on Thanksgiving Day than on any other day of the year, with the day before Thanksgiving coming in at a close second.
"At Thanksgiving, when people are cooking multiple dishes and entertaining guests, it's easy to get distracted," said Lorraine Carli, NFPA's vice president of Outreach and Advocacy.
"These distractions may prompt them to walk away from the kitchen or forget something is cooking on the stovetop or in the oven. These factors can all increase the likelihood of a cooking fire."
Fried turkey has become more common in recent years, but this popular poultry dish is infamous for being the cause of many of these fires. NFPA discourages the use of turkey fryers as they can also lead to severe burns and the destruction of property by the surplus of hot oil.
"You can't put a cold turkey in hot grease, it'll basically cause an explosion," said Lance Ransonet, an engineer with Gulfport Fire Department. "Another thing we see a lot is people putting too much grease in the fryer, so when they put the turkey in it spills over and falls into the fire."
Ransonet mentioned firefighters with Gulfport Police Department respond to several burn incidents and about 2 to 3 house fires every Thanksgiving.
"If you do plan on frying a turkey, make sure you thaw it out first. It needs to be cooked away from the house, not underneath a covered awning or garage that can catch fire," Ransonet advised.
Ransonet has a special message for new chefs.
"Most of the fires we see are from inexperienced cooks who mess up while trying to impress others. Please, don't be afraid to ask for help in the kitchen," he said.
- Stay in the kitchen when cooking to keep a close eye on the food, especially when frying and sautéing with oil.
- Use a timer to keep track of cooking times, most notably when cooking a meal that takes a long time like roasting a turkey, baking a roast or simmering. Check the stove or oven frequently.
- Stay alert and focused when cooking. To help minimize the risk of injury, avoid cooking when drinking alcohol or if you’re sleepy.
- Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels away from the cooking area.
- Kids should stay 3 feet away from stovetops, as well as from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, or gravy could cause serious burns.
- ALWAYS keep a fire extinguisher with you when using a turkey fryer.
- If the fryer catches fire, immediately call 911. The oil itself may be burning, so DO NOT ATTEMPT TO EXTINGUISH THE FIRE WITH WATER. Hot oil doused with water can erupt with deadly consequences.