Keep fire safety top of mind when preparing your feast this Thanksgiving, the peak day for U.S. home cooking fires

Keep cooking safety top of mind when preparing this year’s Thanksgiving feast! According to our latest Home Cooking Fires report, Thanksgiving was the peak day for U.S. home cooking fires in 2018; the day before Thanksgiving was the second-leading day (tied with Christmas Day). Cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home and home fire injuries year-round, and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths.  

Between 2014 and 2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 1,630 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day, three and half times an average day. Unattended cooking was by far the leading cause of associated fires and fire deaths. 

Thanksgiving often involves cooking multiple dishes at once, which can be particularly tricky with lots of distractions in and around the kitchen. From getting ready for guests and managing family needs to entertaining when everyone arrives – these types of activities make it all too easy to lose track of what’s cooking, and that’s when cooking fires tend to happen.

Because of the pandemic, many people will likely choose to celebrate the holiday in smaller groups, which may mean more kitchens being used to cook Thanksgiving meals. Regardless of group size, there will still be lots of the usual cooking and distractions that contribute to a sharp increase in cooking fires on and around Thanksgiving.

NFPA offers these tips and recommendations for cooking safely:

  • Never leave the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop. Some types of cooking, especially those that involve frying or sautéing with oil, need continuous attention.
  • When cooking a turkey, or other items in the oven, stay in your home and check on it regularly.
  • Set a timer on your stove or phone to keep track of cooking times, particularly for foods that require longer cook times.
  • Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, and towels away from direct contact with the cooking area.
  • Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that could come in contact with a heat source.
  • Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on a grease fire.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Only open the door once you’re confident the fire is completely out, standing to the side as you do. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the fire department for assistance.
  • Keep children at least three feet away from the stove and areas where hot food or drink is being prepared or served. Steam or spills from these items can cause severe burns.

In addition, NFPA strongly discourages the use of turkey fryers, as these can lead to severe burns, injuries, and property damage. For a safe alternative, NFPA recommends grocery stores, food retailers, and restaurants that sell deep-fried turkey.

Share our Thanksgiving safety tip sheet with your community to help minimize the likelihood of home cooking fires and visit our website for additional Thanksgiving statistics and resources.

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Susan McKelvey
Communications Manager

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