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State Fire Marshal offers fire safety tips ahead of Thanksgiving

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(Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

LANSING, Mich. – State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer is offering advice and precautions to take before families prepare their meal on Thanksgiving day, the leading day for home cooking fires.

According to a news release from the state, people who use portable deep fryers to cook turkeys should consider a safer alternative. If used incorrectly portable propane-fueled turkey fryers can pose a considerable fire risk.

“Deep frying a turkey – in several gallons of hot oil over 350 degrees – is as flammable as gasoline, if the cooking oil vapors ignite,” said Sehlmeyer. “Never use a portable deep fryer in a garage, near a deck, breezeway, porch or inside any structure; improperly deep-frying turkeys result in a high number of house and garage fires every year.”

Sehlmeyer offered these safety precautions:

  • Use a portable deep fryer with a gas valve controller; read and follow the manufacturer’s user guide.
  • Always use the portable deep fryer on a flat surface, far away from houses, garages, decks, trees, bushes and other flammable material.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and dried prior to putting it in the fryer.
  • Never leave the portable deep fryer unattended; keep children and pets away.
  • Keep the liquid propane tank at least two feet away from the portable deep fryer burner.
  • Only use cooking oil recommended by the deep fryer manufacturer.
  • Do not overfill the portable deep fryer with cooking oil – it may result in the overflow of the cooking oil and a flash fire when immersing the turkey.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts as the deep fryer lid and handle can become very hot; wear safety goggles to protect eyes from cooking oil splatter.
  • If the cooking oil begins to smoke, immediately turn the propane tank to “OFF” by closing the propane tank valve.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher (dry powder) ready at all times; never use water to extinguish a cooking oil or grease fire.

Cooking in the kitchen can also come with fire risks, according to a news release. The U.S. Fire Administration reported that the average number of residential fires more than doubles on Thanksgiving Day compared to any other day of the year.

“Always keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it,” said Sehlmeyer. “If you don’t know how to use a fire extinguisher, do not try to fight a fire yourself; immediately call 9-1-1 in such emergencies and quickly evacuate the home.”

The news released offered more precautions:

  • Start with a clean stove and oven; remove food and grease buildup from burners, stovetop, and oven.
  • Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove to prevent pot tipping by young children.
  • Wear short sleeves or roll sleeves up; check food regularly while it’s simmering, baking, boiling or roasting.
  • Set timers to keep track of turkeys and other foods that require extended cooking times.
  • Turn off the stove if you must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time.
  • Keep children away from cooking areas; do not hold children while cooking.
  • Keep kitchen clutter – potholders, towels, food wrappers, etc. – well away from the burners.
  • Keep a pan lid or cookie sheet nearby; always use an oven mitt.
  • If an oven fire occurs, turn off the oven and keep the door closed.

The news release also encourages people to test the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors of elderly family members when visiting them during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The news released offered these methods of how to reduce your chances of dying in a fire:

  • Check each smoke alarm monthly by pushing the button on the smoke alarm
  • Change the batteries in 9-volt smoke alarms every year
  • Replace smoke alarms every ten years
  • Homes should have a smoke alarm on every level and in every sleeping area
  • Families should develop and practice a Fire Escape Plan

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