Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services Chief Scott Lewis is reminding local residents to be mindful about how Thanksgiving dinner can quickly turn tragic.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking has long been the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries especially around the holidays.
Last year, the NFPA reported that three times as many kitchen fires occur on Thanksgiving than any other average day.
In 2011, there were 1,210 fires on Thanksgiving, a 183- percent increase over the daily average.
More than half of all the reported non-fatal home cooking fire injuries last year occurred when the victims tried to fight the fire themselves.
This week, Lewis said families gathering in and around the kitchen, should pay close attention to their surroundings while celebrating the holiday.
“Aside from fires, other things we want to consider are burns to children because we have a tendency to have a lot of family members and socialization occurring in the kitchen,” he said. When you open the oven for the removal of the turkey, make sure kids and pets are not around.”
Lewis also said if a fire ignites in the oven, there’s a very simple solution to help prevent it from spreading.
“All you have to do is just keep the oven door shut, turn the heat off and call the fire department,” Lewis said. “With the door shut, it should contain it. If there’s a stove-top fire, try to safely remove the item from the stove, place a lid over it and turn the heat off.”
Though the standard kitchen oven is the most traditional method to roast the bird, deep fried turkeys are becoming more popular among families on Thanksgiving, but it poses a huge risk for fires Lewis said.
Additionally, he advised that the standard oven roasting method is safer than deep frying.
“Be extremely careful if you’re using a deep fat fryer,” he said. “Keep water away from it and take all the necessary precautions when putting the turkey in and removing it. Avoid splattering by not dropping it in.”
The department also discourages the use of turkey fryers on Thanksgiving.
Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA, said this week that structure fires are not the only danger a deep fryer presents on Thanksgiving.
“The use of turkey fryers can lead to devastating burns and other injuries due to the large amount and high temperature of oil used,” she said. “The NFPA urges those who prefer fried turkey to look for grocery stores, specialty food retailers and restaurants that sell deep-fried turkeys.”
Carli also said nationally, fire departments responded to an estimated average of 156,600 home fires involving cooking equipment from 2007 to 2011.
“These fires caused an annual average of 400 civilian deaths, 5,080 civilian injuries and $853 million in direct property damage,” she said. “By recognizing the risks of the holidays and making simple adjustments, people can greatly reduce their chance of home cooking fires.”
Lewis meanwhile, said for those who cannot resist deep frying their turkey, do it outside.
“Absolutely outside,” he said. “If you are using a propane device, you should be on the outside of the house. Keep it from any exterior structures as well as kids and pets. And don’t play ball near it.”
Lewis also said last Thanksgiving his department responded to several structure fires in the community.
“We always get at least one or two oven fires and in some cases, we’ve had structure fires mostly from the stovetop. We also see a greater incidence of cardiac medical calls and things along those lines. If someone is not feeling well, be sure to call 911 immediately.”
Additional resources for Thanksgiving and other cooking safety tips can be found on NFPA’s Cooking Fire Safety Central webpage at www.nfpa.org.
A turkey fryer safety tips sheet is also available to download.
Police to target impaired drivers
The Nye County Sheriff’s Office has scheduled saturation patrols this extended holiday weekend targeting impaired drivers. The department will also conduct its “Safe Ride Home” program, wherein the police offer rides home to people who have had to much to drink and have no other ride available.
The department’s nonemergency number is (775) 751-7000.