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NYS has seen a 50% increase in home fire fatalities compared to this time last year
Guest Editorial by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York
Thanksgiving and the holiday season are almost upon us, and historically, the arrival of cooler weather and more home cooking – especially for the holidays – lead to an increase in home cooking fires.
Ahead of 2022’s peak home fire season, New York state has already experienced 118 home fire fatalities, compared to 85 at this time last year – an almost 50% increase.
The Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY) is reminding everyone of basic cooking safety tips that could prevent a fire from ruining the holidays.
“Our state’s volunteer firefighters hope that all New Yorkers have a safe and happy holiday,” FASNY President Edward Tase Jr. said. “When preparing your Thanksgiving feast and other upcoming holiday meals, remember to take important safety precautions, such as not leaving your cooking unattended. Unattended cooking is a leading cause of home fires that can easily be prevented.”
According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), Thanksgiving is the leading day for home cooking fires, with 1,630 breaking out in 2018 – 250% above the daily average. The second-highest day for home cooking fires was Christmas Day, with 740 incidents. Following safe cooking practices this holiday will ensure an accident or a preventable fire does not occur.
One safety risk often taken on Thanksgiving is deep-frying turkeys. It is extremely dangerous to deep-fry a turkey, and can lead to serious burns and property damage. It is integral that the turkey is completely thawed before frying, and that the cooking occurs outside and away from flammable objects.
FASNY and the NFPA provide the following tips:
•Remain in the kitchen while cooking. Whether you’re frying, grilling, baking or broiling food, it’s always a good idea to supervise cooking directly.
•Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for “just a second.” A second is all it takes for a house fire to start.
•If you’re simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind yourself that you’re cooking.
•For homes with children, have the kids remain outside the kitchen area while food is being prepared. Pets should also be kept out of the kitchen while cooking. The safest chef is an undistracted chef!
•Make sure your smoke detectors are functioning by pressing the “test” button. If needed, replace the batteries – and if not functioning after testing, install brand-new smoke alarms. (If you have smoke alarms with sealed-in batteries that do not function when tested, replace the entire unit.)
•Clothing ignitions lead to approximately 16% of home cooking fire deaths. It is important to wear short, close-fitting, or tightly rolled sleeves, as loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners or gas flames and catch fire. Keep the cooking area clean and combustible materials away from your stove top: Built-up grease as well as oven mitts, food packaging, wooden utensils, towels, curtains and other materials on or near the stove can catch fire.
•Deep-frying turkeys is extremely dangerous, especially when done without care.
•If a turkey fryer must be used, follow these tips
√ Turkey fryers can easily tip over spilling hot oil across a large area. Use your turkey fryer only outdoors on a sturdy, level surface that is well away from things that can burn.
√ Make sure to have a “3-foot kid- and pet-free zone” around your turkey fryer to protect against burn injuries.
√ An overfilled cooking pot will cause oil to spill over when the turkey is placed inside. Determine the correct amount of oil needed by first placing the turkey in the pot with water.
√ A partially frozen turkey will cause hot oil to splatter. Make sure your turkey is completely thawed before you fry it.
√ Turkey fryers can easily overheat and start a fire. Check the temperature often with a cooking thermometer so the oil won’t overheat.
•The pot, lid and handles of a turkey fryer can get dangerously hot and cause burn injuries. Use long, insulated cooking gloves that protect hands and arms when you handle these items.
Founded in 1872, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) represents the interests of the approximately 85,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in New York state. For more information, visit www.fasny.com.