Cooking continues to be the most common cause of fires in U.S. households each year, with unattended cooking the leading cause of fires and casualties. Home fires caused by cooking peaks at Thanksgiving and Christmas, as the risk is even greater when families bake, deep fry, boil and grill festive meals. Cooking is also the leading cause of fire injuries. All it takes is a misplaced pot knocked off the stove, a hand towel placed too close to a burner or not watching the fryer as its temperature climbs.
Preventing fires and injury is simple. The key is to be more attentive around the stove, oven, grill and the turkey fryer. Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services cautions: "Don't become a cooking casualty - learn the facts about fire safety today!"
Safe Cooking Tips
• Stay in the kitchen when you're frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• Check any dish in the oven or on the stove or grill regularly; don't leave your home for even a quick errand and use a timer as a reminder.
• Stay alert. The worst time to cook is when you're sleepy, have been drinking alcohol or on medication that makes you drowsy.
• Keep anything that can catch fire - potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels or curtains - away from your stovetop.
• Keep the stovetop, burners and oven clean.
• Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire.
• Plug microwave ovens and other cooking appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance, as it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
If You Have a Cooking Fire
• When in doubt, get out. When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. Call 911 after you leave.
• If you decide to fight the fire, be sure others are already getting out and you have a clear path to the exit.
• Always keep an oven mitt and a lid nearby when cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan (make sure you're wearing the oven mitt). Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. To keep the fire from restarting, leave the lid on until the pan is completely cool.
• In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing.
• If you have a fire in your microwave oven, turn it off immediately and keep the door closed. Never open the door until the fire is completely out. Unplug the appliance if you can safely reach the outlet.
• After a fire, both ovens and microwaves should be checked and/or serviced before being used again. Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services must be contacted immediately for all fires on post, no matter how small they may have been.
Nuisance Smoke Alarms
• Do not disable the alarm or take the batteries out. Treat any alarm activation as a likely fire; react quickly and safely.
Turkey Fryer Safety Tips
• Use turkey fryers outdoors at a safe distance from buildings (minimum of 20 feet) and any other combustible materials.
• Never use turkey fryers in a garage, on a wooden deck or under any building overhang.
• Make sure 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 do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
• Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
• To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to determine the proper amount of oil to add.
• Use well-insulated pot holders 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 do not mix; water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
• The National Turkey Federation recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.
• Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. Call 911 for emergency assistance (required on Fort Lee).
Burns and Scalds
Most “fire-related injuries” are burns. In fact, approximately every 60 seconds someone in the U.S. sustains a burn injury serious enough to require treatment.Cook tops or ovens are often involved in thermal burn injuries, and microwaves are a leading cause of scald burns. Be extra careful when opening a heated food container. Heat food in containers that are marked ‘microwave safe.' Since foods heat unevenly in the microwave, make sure you stir and test the food before eating.
Children younger than five face a higher risk of non-fire burns associated with cooking. You can help prevent these injuries with the basic tips that follow:
• Keep children at least 3 feet away from where food and drinks are being prepared or carried.
• Keep hot foods and liquids away from the table or counter edges.
• Use the stove's back burners if you have young children in the home.
• Never hold a child while cooking, drinking or carrying hot foods or liquids.
Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services actively promotes fire safety to all who work, live and visit Fort Lee. For questions, contact the Fire Prevention Office at 804-765-3973.