MCFRS News Release
Cooking is the Leading Cause of U.S. Home Fires
Holiday Meals and Entertaining Need Time and Attention; Don’t be a Turkey -- Make Safety Count
Cooking fires annually cause millions of dollars in damage and injure dozens of residents in Montgomery County. Remember, during holidays there seems to always be an increased activity in the kitchen especially when entertaining guests. Also be mindful and careful with candles and smoking materials, particularly when guests, pets and small children are present. Be safe. Smoke Alarms Safe Lives!
- Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires.
- Three in every 10 reported home fires start in the kitchen – more than any other place in the home.
- One-third (34%) of candle fires occurred after candles were left unattended, abandoned or inadequately controlled; Twenty-six percent occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle; Six percent were started by people (usually children) playing with the candle.
- The most common material first ignited in residential smoking material-related fires was mattresses and bedding, followed by trash and upholstered furniture.
Following these simple fire safety tips can boost survival rates and reduce injuries dramatically. Knowledge is the best fire protection:
Cooking Fires Life-Saving Tips
- Never leave cooking unattended. A serious fire can start in just seconds.
- Always wear short, tight-fitting sleeves when cooking.
- Turn pot handles inward to avoid spills. Always use a potholder when reaching for handles.
- Keep towels, pot holders and curtains away from flames and hot surfaces.
- Clean cooking surfaces regularly to prevent grease buildup which can ignite.
- If a fire breaks out while cooking, put a lid on the pan to smother it. You may also use baking soda. Never throw water on a grease fire.
- Heat oil gradually to avoid burns from spattering grease. Use extra caution when preparing deep-fried foods.
- Place a rubber mat on the floor in front of your stove to give you added traction in case liquids or grease spill.
- Double-check the kitchen before you go to bed or leave the house. Make sure all other appliances are turned off.
- Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Test the batteries every month, and change them once a year.
- Eighty percent of all fire deaths occur in the home.
- Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. It is also the leading cause of fire injuries.
- Deaths due to fires caused by cooking are particularly avoidable.
- Having a working smoke alarm more than doubles one's chances of surviving a fire.
The winter months of November, December, January and February are typically the busiest for Fire Departments in this area.
Safety Experts from Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) and elsewhere are concerned that backyard chefs may be sacrificing safety for good taste. Underwriters Laboratory is “worried by the increasing reports of fires related with turkey fryer use," according to John Drengenberg, UL consumer affairs manager. Based on their test findings, “the fryers used to produce those great-tasting birds are not worth the risks. And, as a result of these tests, UL has decided not to certify any turkey fryers with our trusted UL Mark."
Here's why using a deep-fryer can be dangerous:
- Many units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil within the cooking pot.
- If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner/flames causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.
- Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect. This too, may result in an extensive fire.
- With no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
- The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.
If you absolutely must use a turkey fryer, here are some tips for safer use:
- Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other material that can burn.
- Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.
- Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
- Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you don't watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
- Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow children or pets near the turkey fryer. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot, hours after use.
- To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
- Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
- Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water don't mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
- The National Turkey Federation recommends refrigerator thawing and to allow approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of bird thawed in the refrigerator.
- Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. Remember to use your best judgment when attempting to fight a fire. If the fire is manageable, use an all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call 9-1-1 for help.