Preventing cooking house fires this holiday season

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 3:07 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2023 at 6:26 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - According to the Harrisonburg Fire Department, Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for firefighters.

In a report made by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are an average of 1,600 cooking fires that take place on Thanksgiving, which is more than triple the daily average. These fires can range from turkey grease fires to random oven fires while Thanksgiving dinner is cooking.

Lt. Erin Stehle, public education officer for HFD, said one of the primary causes of house fires from cooking on Thanksgiving is people stepping away while the food is cooking. She said taking attention away from the food can cause serious, even fatal consequences.

“If you are hosting Thanksgiving, or you are cooking something Thanksgiving day, make sure to give that attention wholeheartedly to that kitchen,” Stehle said. “If for some reason you need to take a break, set a timer. Put a timer on your phone. Get kids to get out of the kitchen for Thanksgiving and these big holidays and have areas where little kids can play.”

Stehle recommended that families and homeowners should contact their local fire departments if a new smoke alarm or carbon monoxide alarm is needed for the house. She said these devices can save lives in case of a fire.

Though HFD has a dedicated night to have smoke alarms checked, Stehle said people can call any time of the year and ask for the department’s help installing one in their home. She emphasized the need for proper handling of food and equipment used while preparing the Thanksgiving meal.

“What happens is sometimes we’re trying to put all of that stuff in the pan. Leave room for it, as it cooks it is going to develop some type of grease,” She said. “Make sure you are using potholders and make sure that you tell everyone that you are going to pull those things out so if you have young children they know not to come into the kitchen at that time.”

Stehle said it is important to let foods like turkey have space on any cooking sheet because overcrowding can cause severe issues with both the preparation of food and can become a fire hazard.

Though the weather is generally colder around the holiday season, Stehle said it is important to cook with short sleeves rather than long sleeves. She said it could be dangerous to be around hot food and appliances with long sleeves as they could unexpectedly catch fire.

If people suffer a burn injury from cooking this holiday season, Stehle said it is important to place the injured part of your body in COOL water, not freezing cold and not hot water either. She said if the burn looks like a sunburn, it can be controlled and managed with cool water and burn cream at home. If any skin/nerves are showing, she recommends people seek medical assistance as soon as possible.