Be it the turkey, side dishes or pies, there’s a prized recipe for just about everything at Thanksgiving.
But, a recipe for disaster?
Unfortunately, there’s one for that too, no thanks to the nearly fourfold increase in home cooking fires on Thanksgiving that make it easily the leading day for such blazes.
Jake Heflin, a nearly 20-year veteran of the Long Beach Fire Department, knows firsthand the main ingredient for the staggering spike from the daily average of 470 cooking fires to 1,600 on Thanksgiving Day in 2017, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
“Unattended cooking, by far, is the leading contributing factor to these cooking fires and fire deaths,” said Heflin, a firefighter, paramedic, public information officer and CERT program manager for his department.
“There is no question that you should make sure you stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on a stovetop. If you leave for even a short period of time, turn off the stovetop. Obviously, you should also stay in the home when you’re cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.”
Unattended cooking — especially frying — is the reason for 31% of the fires, which abound on the day before Thanksgiving as well, according to the fire association. Abandoned or discarded materials follow at 10% and heat sources being too close to combustibles make up 9%.
The safety hazards don’t end there, however, on a day when an estimated 46 million turkeys will be eaten and home fires lead to an average of five fatalities, 25 injuries and $19 million in property damage. Damaged appliances and extension cords in addition to the overuse of those cords is a concern too.
“Appliances or anything with damaged cords should never be used and should be immediately replaced,” said Andrew Martinez, vice president of Safety, Security and Business Resiliency at Southern California Edison. “They are a safety risk because they no longer protect against shock or serious injury and could even spark a fire.”
And turkey fryers? The fire association still discourages their use and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) still refuses to certify them.