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For Immediate Release
November 26, 2019


Thanksgiving and Christmas Are Peak Days for Home Cooking Fires

Office of Fire Prevention and Control Urges Safe Use of Turkey Fryers As They Can Lead to Devastating Burns, Other Injuries, and Property Destruction


The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Fire Prevention and Control today urged New Yorkers to stay alert and focused while cooking this season as more home cooking fires occur during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays than at any other time of the year. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association’s latest ‘Home Cooking Fires’ report says that 1,600 home cooking fires occurred on Thanksgiving Day in 2017 and 690 fires occurred the day before Thanksgiving.


“Cooking for family and friends is an important part of any holiday, unfortunately however it does pose a number of risks which could cause harm to those celebrating,” said New York Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Patrick Murphy. “With Thanksgiving being the one day which sees the most cooking fires and casualties, it is critical New Yorkers always remember to stay attentive and never leave stoves, ovens and fryers unattended.”


“Reported cooking fires remain historically high, especially during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays,” said State Fire Administrator Francis Nerney. “An average of 470 cooking fires are reported each day in the U.S. It’s vital that New Yorkers stay alert and focused when cooking, remain in the kitchen until all cooking is finished, and have a fire extinguisher nearby. If you do plan to use a turkey fryer, use it outdoors and never on a wooden deck or in a garage.”


Thanksgiving is the one day, which leads all others, in the most cooking related fires seen in the United States, causing an average of 173,000 reported home structure fires annually. These fires have also resulted in an average of 550 deaths, 5,020 home fire injuries and $1.2 billion in property damage. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires and casualties.


Here are recommendations for cooking safely:


  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking to keep a close eye on the food, especially when frying or 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. Consider putting timers in different rooms so that you can hear them over music, football games, and party chatter.


  • To help minimize the risk of injury, avoid cooking when drinking alcohol or if you are sleepy.


  • Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers and towels away from the cooking area.


  • Kids should stay three feet away from stovetops, as well as from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, or gravy could cause serious burns.


Frying turkeys at Thanksgiving has become increasingly popular in recent years. However, the Office of Fire Prevention and Control discourages the use of turkey fryers since the hot oil can lead to devastating burns and other injuries, and destruction of property. Additionally, not knowing the proper techniques for frying, such as ensuring a frozen turkey is never dropped in hot oil, only compound these threats. For those who prefer fried turkey, officials suggest individuals purchase deep fried turkeys from grocery stores, specialty food retailers or restaurants.


Those who choose to fry a turkey, instead of purchasing one, should remember:


  • Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.


  • Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.


  • 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 do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.


  • Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. 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 do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.


  • The National Turkey Federation (NTF) recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.


  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.


For more cooking fire safety tips, visit the State Office of Fire Prevention and Control website.


About the Office of Fire Prevention and Control:

The Office of Fire Prevention and Control delivers a wide breadth of services to firefighters, emergency responders, state and local government agencies, public and private colleges, and the citizens of New York. The office advances public safety through firefighter training, education, fire prevention, investigative, special operations and technical rescue programs. The delivery of these essential services enables the office to make significant contributions to the safety of all of New York State.


About the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services:

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services provides leadership, coordination and support for efforts to prevent, protect against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorism and other man-made and natural disasters, threats, fires and other emergencies. For more information, visit the DHSES Facebook page, follow @NYSDHSES on Twitter and Instagram, or visit dhses.ny.gov.



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