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Thanksgiving Safety – Cooking Fires, Child and Pet Safety

Home Cooking Fires was the topic of our October safety article, highlighting Fire Prevention Week. Why then does Thanksgiving get singled out specifically, as a topic in November?

Thanksgiving has three times the amount of home fires, more than any other day of the year. Home cooking fires are responsible for almost 50 % of these fires. Unattended cooking is the most common cause of Thanksgiving Day Fires. We will look at keeping the cooking area safe, turkey fryer fires and keeping children and pets in mind while cooking.

GVFD Nov 2023 Cooking Safety

Let’s turn our discussion first to prevention and or mitigation of injury while cooking, keeping all household members in mind. We can pose the question by asking who belongs in the kitchen?

  • The Cook always belongs in the kitchen when there is anything cooking on the
  • Working smoke alarms with working batteries belong just outside of the kitchen, as well as every sleeping room, every hallway outside the sleeping area, on every level of the home.
  • Fire extinguishers belong in the kitchen within easy reach. Know how to use the fire extinguisher and what type of fire extinguisher is safe and effective for specific types of fire.
  • Children and pets do not belong in the kitchen within three feet of the stove. 
  • When hot foods are being taken off the stove, children and pets do not belong in the area. Games, crafts, and activities that involve kids should be enjoyed outside the kitchen.
  • Tripping hazards do not belong in the Floors should be kept clear. Clean up spills as they occur.
  • Anything that can ignite a fire: matches, lighters, flammable objects near a stove should be relocated away from the cooktop and out of reach of children and pets.
GVFD Fire Extinguisher Nov 2023

Knowing which type of fire extinguisher to use, and how each one works, is crucial in minimizing the impact of a building fire. This chart identifies various fire extinguishers and the corresponding class of fire it can be used for. ABC fire extinguishers are the most commonly used fire extinguisher type.

DHFD Nov 2023 2
GVFD Nov 2023 Pet Safety

Pets cannot digest many of Thanksgiving’s classic foods. In general, seasoned food and fatty foods and many spices are difficult for pets to digest. Turkey with traditional seasoning, turkey skin and any butter or oil added to turkey preparation can make your pet sick. Turkey skin, high in fat, can cause pancreatitis for a pet, which is both dangerous and painful. What humans consider healthy foods such as grapes and raisins can be poisonous to pets. Yeast dough is difficult to digest, causing gas and bloating. Pies and desserts with some artificial sweeteners can be deadly. Pets can be included in the pleasure of special foods by offering your pet a favorite pet approved treat.

Turkey bones and turkey carcasses can also be deadly to a pet. While it is important to not feed your pets specific foods, it is just as important to prevent your dog access to leftovers, particularly bones and turkey carcasses. Clear the plates and cooking vessels of any remaining food. Throw out all plastic wrappings and strings. Secure the garbage where your pet cannot get into it, such as behind a locked door.

If you are concerned that your dog has eaten a “forbidden food” call your veterinarian. The ASPCA has a poison control hotline: 888-426-4435. There is also a Pet Poison Hotline: 855- 764-7661. Click here for a review of foods from the ASPCA that are dangerous to pets.  

Some pets are very sensitive to crowds as well as unfamiliar people. Plan for a quiet, undisturbed location to keep your pet happy and safe if you are expecting a large group of guests.

Holiday gatherings allow for a lot of entering and exiting from your home. Pets can wander outside and become lost. If this occurs ID tags and a microchip will increase the chances of a safe return to your home. Microchips should be kept up to date with registration and current pet owner information.

GVFD November 2023 Deep Frying

We single out grease fires, as oil is the most common fuel that causes cooking fires. Specifically, when oil is hot, even a small amount bubbling over the side of a fryer can cause a fire. Turkey fryer fires can occur instantly when oil spills over the sides of a turkey fryer pot. These fires can be quite violent. The National Fire Protection Agency reports 5 deaths, 60 injures and over $15 million in property damage due to turkey fryer fires in 2022.

Specific rules for turkey fryer use include:

  • ALWAYS cook The fryer should be at a safe distance from the house, other buildings and flammable material.
  • Make sure the turkey is fully thawed. Frozen turkey thawing while cooking, releases Oil and water do not mix, and ultimately hot oil will spill over the pot causing a fire. Additionally unthawed turkey can explode in the turkey fire causing a fire.
  • As with all cooking, do not leave the fryer unattended. Thermostat controls are very important to prevent overheating and oil spilling over.
  • Children and pets should never be near the fryer even hours after the fryer is no longer in use. Oil can remain hot for hours after the fryer is turned off.
  • When frying, protect against burns with well insulated oven mitts, long sleeves and safety googles to protect eyes.

A chart highlighting the above points.

Food safety for Thanksgiving begins before your turkey reaches the oven. Attached is a very complete USDA review on turkey preparation. We would like to highlight their recommendations on defrosting specifically with this safety tip:

The USDA recommends 1 day of defrosting the turkey in the refrigerator for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. A 20 lb. turkey for example, would require 4 days to thaw. Thawing should be done in the refrigerator to prevent sickness from bacterial growth that can occur at room temperature

From our family to yours, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving Holiday.