Thanksgiving ranked as leading day for house fires

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SALT LAKE CITY — Thanksgiving has been reported as the day of the year that has the most house fires. Firefighters give simple safety steps to prevent fires started from grease and neglect.

"The biggest cause for fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking," said Jasen Asay, public relations specialist with the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

If the turkey is going to take three hours in the oven, people have a tendency to wander away and do other things. But, Asay pointed out that it's very dangerous to leave cooking items unattended. If you keep an eye on your cooking, you can prevent most fires in the kitchen.

Belva Parr of Lindon was baking pies Wednesday evening, preparing to host around 20 for a Thanksgiving feast. She said she had a Thanksgiving grease fire in her oven years ago. She said pie filling overflowed in the oven mixed with turkey grease.

"I turned the oven on to cook the turkey, the grease from the turkey bubbled over and it all mixed together, and I had a little fire," Parr said.

She easily put out the fire, but if she had left the room, that fire might have taken off. That's one reason she said she would never stray too far from the kitchen with a turkey in the oven.

"I'm chicken," Parr said. "If I leave, the stove is off."

Seven people die in house fires in the U.S. every day on average, and cooking is the leading cause. Those fires often start when people get complacent about cooking routines in the kitchen or when they leave the kitchen altogether.

U.S. Fire Administration statistics show unattended cooking is by far the leading contributing factor in house fires. Two-thirds of those fires started with the ignition of food or other cooking materials, like grease.

"If you have a grease fire, it's important to smother the fire," Asay said.

Asay said to smother it with the lid of the pan. If you throw water on it, that quickly spreads a grease fire. If you're frying your turkey tomorrow, be especially careful. Don't overfill the oil in the fryer or you could have a very explosive fire on your hands when you drop a 20 pound bird into the boiling oil.

"That's what the big problem is," Asay said. " When the oil overflows, that's what causes the fire."

It's just as important to keep the fryer away from the house, and out of the garage.

"If it's inside the garage and there's any kind of accident, any kind of spill, there is so much inside the garage that can burn," he said.

No matter where you're preparing your Thanksgiving feast, keep the chaos away from the cooking.

"When there is so much activity going on inside the kitchen, that's a big opportunity for home cooking fires," Asay said.

Another recommendation is not to wear loose fitting clothing in the kitchen. A loose sleeve can knock a pan off the stove, or even catch fire. Asay also suggests it's a good idea to know where your fire extinguisher is when you're doing a lot of cooking in the kitchen.


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Jed Boal


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