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Home fires triple on Thanksgiving: Just say no to distracted cooking

 A Thanksgiving day fire in Brentwood 2009 started after a turkey was grilled on the back deck of the home.  The Brentwood Fire Department responded and the Franklin Fire Department provided mutual aid.
Don’t let distractions cause your holiday feast to go up in flames
You’ve heard of distracted driving, but have you heard of distracted cooking?
Countless distractions can happen while we’re cooking – family, friends, pets, cell phones, television, housework and more.   As we know, these distractions multiply with the holidays.
“The problem is that distractions cause us to leave cooking unattended,” says Franklin Fire and Life Safety Educator Jamie Melton.  And that is a recipe for a house fire.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), unattended cooking accounts for over 40 percent of all house fires in the United States.  In 2010, cooking was involved in an estimated 156,400 home structure fires that were reported to U.S. fire departments. These fires caused 420 deaths, 5,310 injuries and $993 million in direct property damage.
What’s more, NFPA data shows that cooking fires more than triple on Thanksgiving, making it the busiest day of the year for firefighters.
“This time of year all the entertaining and activity make it even easier for us to forget about what’s cooking on the stovetop,” says Melton.  She offers a simple solution, “Carry a potholder, spatula, or wooden spoon with you to remind you that you’re cooking,” says Melton.
She offers additional easy tips that can greatly reduce the risk of a holiday fire:
· Don’t use the stove or stovetop if you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol.
· Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
· If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
· Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
· Install and maintain smoke alarms – you need one in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on every floor of your home.
· Have a home fire escape plan for your family and practice it.
· Last but not least – frying poses the greatest risk of fire!  Keep the following tips in mind before you fire up that turkey fryer:
Turkey Fryers
· Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages. Operate them outside, away from the house and anything that can burn.
· Look for sturdy fryers with a long hose to keep the hot oil farther away from the propane tank.
· Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
· Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you don't watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
· Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use or after use.  The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot, hours after use.
· To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
· Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
· Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water don't mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
· Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.
· If you have a fire, call 9-1-1 immediately.  Use a fire extinguisher only after calling 9-1-1.
· Recycle your cooking oil!  The City of Franklin’s Solid Waste Department accepts cooking oil year round at their recycling drop-off site at 417 Century Court in Franklin. This location is also the site for recycling batteries, oil, paint, anti-freeze and electronics (BOPAE). The cooking oil is recycled into bio-fuel for use in the Middle Tennessee area by Mid Tenn Biofuels of Auburntown, Tennessee. 
Citizens can bring their cooking oil or other BOPAE items to the center from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. p.m. Monday through Friday. and the first Saturday of each month from 8 a.m. until noon.

Posted on: 11/24/2013


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