According to the U.S. Fire Administration, from 2014-16, an estimated 2,400 residential fires were reported each year, with an estimated five deaths, 25 injuries and $19 million in property damage each.
With that in mind, Forsyth County Fire Department Division Chief Jason Shivers has some tips to reduce risks and improve safety in homes over the holiday. Though for any potential issues or concerns, Shivers said residents should never hesitate to call in professionals.
“Anything you suspect could put you and your family at risk,” Shivers said, “please always call 911. Let the fire department come out and investigate or offer up our services, versus taking the risk and a fire occurring after you’ve gone to bed or someone’s injuries causing them to have to go to the emergency room the next day when we could have been able to potentially help the day before.”
Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without the turkey, stuffing and other standards, but Shivers said cooking more than normal with more people around than usual can mean more chances for things to go wrong.
“When cooking in the kitchen, always abide by a 3-foot rule for children in the kitchen, meaning allow for at least three feet from any appliance in the kitchen,” Shivers said. “Best practice is that children stay out of the kitchen and out from underfoot, but if you have a large kitchen where the family gathers, make sure they stay at least three feet from appliances anytime the kitchen is in operation.”
While many families will bake their turkeys or use a number of other different tactics, frying turkeys has become a popular method.
“In recent years, frying turkeys has become a big American pastime,” Shivers said. “It’s something that a lot of families have taken on as a way to enjoy their Thanksgiving turkeys, and that can certainly be done in a safe manner, but precautions must be taken.”
Shivers said turkeys can be fried in oil either inside, which should only be done on electric fryers graded for indoor use, or outdoors, which is typically has power and can create issues if done unsafely.
“If you’re frying with a gas-powered turkey fryer that obviously uses a flame to bring the cooking oil to temperature, that needs to be done outdoors and on a hard, improved surface well away from the home,” he said. “Never fry a turkey on the back deck or in the garage up against a home.”
Shivers said cooking in the garage is unsafe because it fills the space with carbon monoxide and recommended using the fryers on concrete, a driveway or a parking pad not surrounded by anything.
Many incidents with the fryers happen when there is too much oil in the pot, which overflows once the turkey is put in, sending the flammable oil onto the burner. Adding frozen or wet turkeys to the oil is another common problem.
To help minimize overflows, Shivers recommended first putting the turkey into the pot, filling the pot with enough water to cover the turkey, removing the turkey and marking the new water level. Once the water is poured out and the fryer is dried, the oil should only be added to the second level.
“You will be able to pour the cooking oil to that level you made, then you will be able to place in your turkey when that oil is ready, and you’ll know that oil level won’t overflow,” he said.
As with other cooking, he recommended kids stay at least three feet away from turkey fryers at all times.
Decorations and home safety
“Many people love using candles in the home to provide a fragrant and comfortable ambiance during the holidays,” Shivers said. “Of course, the best practice is not to use candles at all. Use battery-powered candles that provide the ambiance of a candle but without the true risk of a flame.”
Those wanting to use actual candles should keep them in a safe container on high spaces where children cannot reach and away from decorations or anything else flammable.
Shivers said while keeping them up high may prevent children from reaching them, pet owners, particularly those with cats, should also be cautious.
“They often are curious about candles, especially if it’s not something often used in the home,” he said.
No matter what the holiday plans are, Shivers said one of the most important parts of home safety is having a smoke detector with working batteries that have been purchased in the last 10 years.