The association’s latest Home Cooking Fires report shows that Thanksgiving is the peak day for U.S. home cooking fires followed by the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. According to the report, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,630 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day, three and half times an average day.
Unattended cooking was by far the leading cause of associated fires and fire deaths. Cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home and home fire injuries year-round, and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths.
“Thanksgiving often involves cooking multiple dishes at once, which can be particularly tricky with lots of distractions in and around the kitchen,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA. “From getting ready for guests and managing family needs to entertaining when everyone arrives – these types of activities make it all too easy to lose track of what’s cooking, and that’s where a lot of fires tend to happen.”
Carli notes that the pandemic may reduce the number of larger group gatherings in favor of smaller celebrations, which may mean more kitchens being used to cook Thanksgiving meals this year.
NFPA offers these tips and recommendations for safely cooking this Thanksgiving:
- Never leave the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop. Some types of cooking, especially those that involve frying or sautéing with oil, need continuous attention.
- When cooking a turkey, or other items in the oven, stay in your home and check on it regularly.
- Set a timer on your stove or phone to keep track of cooking times, particularly for foods that require longer cook times.
- Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, and towels away from direct contact with the cooking area.
- Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that could come in contact with a heat source.
- Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on a grease fire.
- For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Only open the door once you’re confident the fire is completely out, standing to the side as you do. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the fire department for assistance.
- Keep children at least three feet away from the stove and areas where hot food or drink is being prepared or served. Steam or spills from these items can cause severe burns.
“The pandemic may limit the number of people in homes this year, but there will still be lots of the usual cooking and distractions that contribute to a sharp increase in cooking fires on and around Thanksgiving,” said Carli. “Being vigilant in the kitchen remains critical to ensuring a fire-safe holiday.”
In addition, NFPA strongly discourages the use of turkey fryers, as these can lead to severe burns, injuries, and property damage. For a safe alternative, NFPA recommends grocery stores, food retailers, and restaurants that sell deep-fried turkey.