Written by Greta Gustafson, Media Relations Intern, American Red Cross
During my last Thanksgiving at home my family’s tiny kitchen was filled with more than 20 people immersed in the chaos of cooking, snacking and catching up. Among the laughter and conversation, there was a loud crash and a profane exclamation from my dad. Everyone stopped their conversations and looked toward the oven. Our massive turkey slipped from the rack onto the heating elements in the oven, resulting in a grease fire. The kitchen quickly filled with smoke. My mom immediately ran to grab a rag to extinguish the fire while my dad grabbed the burning bird. Thankfully together they salvaged the turkey, minus a few crisp appendages, and the celebration continued.
Call it luck or stupidity, but this was the third time this same catastrophe occurred during our Thanksgiving celebrations. We always managed to save the turkey and our home, year after year. However, this is no way to spend Thanksgiving, and I urge you to learn from our mistakes!
Cooking fires are the most common cause of home fires and fire injuries, and Thanksgiving is a time when you are more likely to be distracted while preparing a meal. According to The National Fire Protection Association, 45 percent of all home fires are caused by cooking equipment.
The American Red Cross recommends these tips to make sure all family and food make it safely to the table:
- Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
My family could have really benefited from remembering to clean the oven prior to roasting the turkey.
- Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. Contact your local fire department for training on the proper use of extinguishers.
Using a rag to put out a fire is not the best method.
- Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month and replace all batteries at least once a year.
This was one thing my family had going for us. Following the mini-fires we always knew our smoke alarms were working well. But you can easily test your alarms without going through this exercise.
- Keep children and pets away from the cooking area. Ensure they stay at least three feet away from the over and stove.
This is incredibly important. Small cooking fires can happen at any time.
- If you’re simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check on it regularly.
I can’t stress this one enough. If my parents weren’t quick enough to put out the flames, we may not have been so lucky.
This Thanksgiving, I recommend being prepared and following the steps above to help avoid cooking fires and to enjoy a safe and festive holiday season.