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Frying a turkey this holiday? Forsyth fire officials urge caution
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Forsyth County News

FORSYTH COUNTY — Thanksgiving is a day of family celebration, an opportunity to express gratitude for your blessings. However, a day with so much cooking and busyness can also lead to some hazards.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving Day in 2009 had three times the average number of fires for that year. Forsyth County Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers said that with all fire safety, smoke detectors are crucial.

“Having smoke detectors operable in your home is of utmost importance,” he said.

There are several ways that preparing for Thanksgiving can go wrong, but one of the most common causes of fire is the improper use of deep fryers. Shivers said the first rule of frying a turkey is to do it outside.

“A lot of mistakes get made, a lot of people have concerns and questions or don’t know how to properly fry their turkey,” Shivers said. “First you should always fry the turkey outdoors. It should absolutely be fried outdoors if you’re using any kind of gas-burning turkey fryer.”

One of the ways fires commonly start is by cooks overestimating the amount of oil needed, and it then spilling over once the turkey is added.

“The oil should always be at a safe level, and the best way to test that is to use water first,” Shivers said.

“Take out your turkey in the fryer, fill it up to a safe level of water, remove the turkey and mark the level on the outside of the fryer ... That’s a sure measure to make sure that you don’t have overflow.”

Shivers said that keeping a “fair distance” from a house is also a way to lessen the likely hood of property damage, and frying on concrete also helped.

“The area needs to be well vented, not in a garage, but somewhere outdoors,” he said. “The best locations should be on a concrete surface, like a driveway or patio, due to the danger of oil spilling and causing a fire.”

Putting a frozen turkey in the fryer can also cause an explosion and a fire.

 “Common mistakes are that people will put a frozen turkey in the fryer. That can be catastrophic, because the cold temperature of the turkey reacts to the hot boiling oil and cause a very violent eruption of the oil. So the turkey should be thawed thoroughly.”

Other than deep fryers, Shivers urged caution when using traditional stoves, especially with children around the house. He said that the kitchen is always a fire hazard area and that the risk was increased on holidays.

“When you’re cooking in the kitchen, always be mindful of young ones. It’s best if you can keep children out of the kitchen and away from the cooks,” Shivers said. “Allow the area around the stove to be an adults-only access area.

“Always make sure that pots and pans have the handles facing inwards, so they’re not hanging over the front of the stove.”

Shivers also said that families should be careful with candles and keep them in areas away from kids and where they can’t get knocked over. He also suggested using alternatives to cut down on risk.

“Many families like to use candles for ambience, and I certainly understand that,” Shivers said. “There are a lot of options on the table for battery-powered LED candles that look quite realistic. Those are great options. You don’t run the risk of a candle turning over on a table or table cloth or someone.”