There are more home fires on Thanksgiving than any other day in Massachusetts, according to State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. New Year’s Eve comes in second, with half as many fires.
“Thanksgiving is a wonderful family holiday, but the day can be ruined with a cooking or candle fire, a burn injury, or a carbon monoxide incident from long-term use of the oven,” said Ostroskey. “The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to keep your family safe. To start with, every home should have working smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms.”
Cooking is the leading cause of fires in the home and of fire injuries, so it is not surprising that 87 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires were caused by cooking. Ostroskey offered these cooking fire safety tips:
- 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 running.
- 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 doors closed and turn off the heat.
- If the fire is not quickly snuffed out, leave the house and call 911 from outside.
“Last Thanksgiving, firefighters across the commonwealth were busy responding to cooking fires,” said Ostroskey.
Around 2 p.m. last Thanksgiving, the Milford Fire Department was called to a cooking fire in a single-family home. The fire was confined to the food in a gas oven. No one was injured at this fire and the smoke alarms operated.
A little after 3 p.m. last Thanksgiving, the Tewksbury Fire Department was called to a cooking fire in the driveway of a single-family home. A deep fryer and a 20-pound propane tank were on fire about 10 feet from the garage. No one was injured by this fire. There was heat damage to the paint on the garage and damages were estimated to be $500.
Just as a Haverhill family was getting ready to sit down to their holiday meal around 4:30 p.m. last Thanksgiving, they called the Haverhill Fire Department for a cooking fire in their single-family home. Even though the smoke alarms did not work, no one was injured. The building did not have sprinklers and damages were estimated to be $2,000.
Gas ovens: a source of carbon monoxide
Generally, the confined space of a closed gas oven used for cooking does not produce enough carbon monoxide to be of concern, unless you are using it for several hours 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 an extended period of time.
Candles make any holiday table festive, but it is important to follow these safety tips:
- Use candles inside a 1-foot circle of safety, free of anything that can burn.
- Think twice about lighting the candles on that lovely centerpiece if it means you can’t follow the 1-foot circle of safety rule.
- Use extra care with candles when children and pets are around.
- Consider using flameless, battery-operated candles instead.
- Blow out candles when leaving the room; don’t leave candles burning unattended.
- Use non-combustibles holders or saucers.
- Keep all matches and lighters out of reach of children.
- Keep children 3 feet away from the stove for safety to prevent burns.
- Run cool water on burns; call 911 for more serious burn injuries.
- Remember to stop, drop, cover and roll if clothing ignites.
Heating: no. 2 cause of fires on Thanksgiving
Especially if you don’t regularly use your fireplace, be sure to have the chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional before lighting that first fire on the holiday. Everyone who heats with wood should have their chimney cleaned and flue inspected at the start of the heating season.
For more information contact your local fire department or the Department of Fire Services Thanksgiving web page.