Turkey Frying – a Contributor of Thanksgiving Fires

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Provided by Prince William County Department of Fire & Rescue

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Cooking fires is the number one cause of home fires and injuries in the U.S. Thanksgiving Day is the peak day for cooking fires when home fires more than double the average number of fires in homes on any other day. Therefore, it’s imperative that cooking and kitchen safety are key ingredients to a successful and festive feast on Thanksgiving Day.

According to U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), from 2011 – 2013, there were approximately 2,100 home fires, in the U.S., that occurred on Thanksgiving Day resulting in an estimated 10 deaths, 50 injuries and $28 millions in property loss. Thanksgiving Day fires most frequently occur from 12 noon to 3:00 p.m. compared to the rest of the year when fires occur during normal dinnertime hours from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

One contributor of Thanksgiving fires is turkey frying. Over the years, turkey frying has become extremely popular during the holiday season. Retailers anxious to capture the market during this brief and prosperous holiday season, stock their shelves with turkey fryers and although the industry has made great strides in the improvement of turkey fryers, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that they still are not safe to use due to the amount of oil and high temperatures used to cook a turkey. Even well-informed and careful consumers are at risk when using this product. The use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers is discouraged by the NFPA unless used by properly trained professionals such as grocery stores, specialty food retailers and restaurants, who use professional quality equipment. Listed below are the dangers associated with turkey fryers:

  • Hot oil can spill or splash over onto the flame igniting a fire. This can occur during the cooking process especially when placing the turkey in the fryer or when removing it.
  • Fryers designed for outdoor use with or without a stand are prone to collapse causing a major hot oil spill.
  • Cooking oil is combustible. If heated beyond its cooking temperature (375°), its vapors can ignite.
  • Steam can result from hot cooking oil exposed to snow or rain, causing a splattering of the hot oil leading to burns.
  • The use of turkey fryers in close quarters poses a burn hazard/danger to children and others in the home. Oil inside a pot can stay dangerously hot for hours after use.
  • DO NOT use in, on or under a garage, deck, breezeway, porch, barn or any structure that can catch fire.
  • Frozen or partially frozen turkeys, when cooked, will cause the hot oil to splatter or produce hot steam, leading to burns.

Should a grease fire occur:

  • NEVER use water to extinguish it!
  • Get out and stay out! Once you’re safely out of the house, call 911.


Additional Cooking Safety Tips

Chief Kevin McGee of the Prince William County Department of Fire & Rescue (www.pwcgov.org/fire) would like to remind residents that cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries. The leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking. These fires are preventable by simply being more attentive when using cooking materials and equipment. Chief McGee urges the community to follow these simple safety tips to keep you and your family safe during the holidays and every day:

“Look When You Cook”

  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food.
  • 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 away from your stove, e.g., oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains.

  • Should a grease fire occur, NEVER use water to extinguish it! And get out and stay out! Once you’re safely out of the house, call 911.


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