According to State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey there are more house fires on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year, and the majority are cooking fires.

“As you prepare to celebrate this holiday, make safety a priority. Start by making sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms,” he said.

Cooking activities have been the cause of 86 percent of the 704 Thanksgiving Day fires in Massachusetts over the last five years. Fire Marshal Ostroskey offered cooking safety tips that everyone can follow to prevent fires:

  • Check to make sure your oven is empty before turning it on.
  • Wear short or tight-fitting sleeves when cooking.
  • Turn pot handles inward over the stove.
  • Remember to “stand by your pan" and stay in the kitchen when boiling, frying or broiling.
  • Use a timer when baking or roasting and never leave the house with the oven on.
  • The best way to respond to a stovetop fire is to “put a lid on it” and turn off the heat.
  • The best way to respond to an oven or broiler fire is to keep the oven doors closed and turn off the heat.
  • If the fire is not quickly snuffed out, leave the house and call 9-1-1 from outside.

Last Thanksgiving, firefighters across the commonwealth were busy responding to the 123 fires that caused several injuries and more than $1.4 million in damages. For example:

  • On November 28, at 1:19 PM, the Boston Fire Department responded to a gas stove cooking fire in a four-unit apartment building. Alarms operated and alerted the occupants. No one was injured. Damages were estimated to be $2,000.
  • On November 28, at 4:41 PM, the Boston Fire Department responded to a stovetop cooking fire in an apartment building. Alarms operated and alerted the occupants. No one was injured at this fire. Damages were estimated to be $2,000.
  • On November 28, at 11:33 AM, the Worcester Fire Department responded to a cooking fire in a single-family home. One person trying to extinguish the fire and one firefighter were injured at this fire. Alarms operated and alerted the occupants. Damages were estimated to be $1,500.

The National Fire Protection Association discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil. There are no outdoor turkey fryers that have a listing from an independent testing laboratory such as UL or ETL. The NFPA states that home use of “turkey fryers that use cooking oil, as currently designed, are not suitable for safe use by even a well-informed and careful consumer.” This risk of an oil spill or the ignition of spilled oil is quite high. The NFPA recommends using new, oil-less turkey fryers.

Generally, the confined space of a closed gas oven used for cooking does not produce enough carbon monoxide to present any dangers, unless it is used for several hours consecutively like when roasting a turkey. If you have a kitchen exhaust fan, use it; if not, crack a window for fresh air when using the gas oven for a prolonged period.

Heating is the second-leading cause of fires on Thanksgiving. Give your furnace an annual checkup and have chimneys cleaned and inspected by a professional at the beginning of heating season. 

For more information, contact your local fire department or visit the Department of Fire Services’ Thanksgiving webpage.

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