By Tamas Mondovics
Florida may not be leading the list of fryer fire-related accidents, injuries, or death, but according to the National Fire Protection Association, (NFPA), the holiday season claims the most reported home cooking fires.
In a recent report by the NFPA, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,760 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day 2015.
Thanksgiving continues to be the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
The reports said that unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in cooking fires and fire deaths while cooking equipment was involved in almost half of all reported home fires and home fire injuries; it is the second leading cause of home fire deaths.
To send a very visual message about how to safely prepare and celebrate the holiday dinner, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, Tampa Fire Rescue, Plant City Fire Rescue, Temple Terrace Fire Department, St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, Pinellas Park Fire Department and Pasco County Fire Rescue joined forces just prior to Thanksgiving Day to host a joint media event during the early morning hours at the Hillsborough County Public Safety Operations Complex, 9450 E. Columbus Dr. in Tampa.
The main course on the menu of fire safety demonstrations was the turkey frying, the wrong way.
The subsequent blaze that engulfed the propane gas fryer within a split second was enough visual to remind any self-appointed turkey-frying-expert not to cut corners, but to cook the bird the right way.
During the event, each department covered a safety topic with an interactive demonstration.
“Our focus, of course, is safety,” said Hillsborough County Fire Chief Dennis Jones. “Thanksgiving is about cooking, preferably without tragedy. The same applies to preparing meals for special days the rest of the season.”
Demonstrations by the various fire departments also focused on space heater safety and safe home heating; fire extinguisher safety; smoke alarms; exit drills; cooking and turkey preparations safety.
On par with food preparation—an essential element of any holiday—residents are urged to keep in mind some cooking safety tips compiled by NFPA that include:
• Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
• Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
• Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot, and kids should stay three feet away.
• Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause severe burns.
• Keep the floor clear, so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
• Keep knives out of the reach of children.
• Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
• Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children — up high in a locked cabinet.
• Never leave children alone in a room with a lit candle.
• Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.
For more information, please visit www.nfpa.org. or Hillsborough County Fire Rescue at www.HCFLGOV.net.