Home Cooking Safety Over the Holidays

Source: U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Luke Kitterman

Thanksgiving can be a time for reflecting and reminiscing. For the fire department, Thanksgiving is literally the busiest day of the year for home cooking fires across the U.S.

According to a report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “Home Cooking Fires”, cooking caused more home fire deaths in 2013–2017 than in 1980–1984.

NFPA’s analysis of home fire victims by age and gender found that in 2011–2015, people who were 55 and older had the highest risk of cooking fire death. More than half (56 percent) of the people who died in cooking fires were at least 55 years of age.

The report highlighted:

  • US fire departments responded to an estimated average of 173,200 home structure fires per year started by cooking activities in 2013-2017, or an average of 470 home cooking fires per day. These fires caused an average of 550 civilian deaths, 5,020 reported civilian fire injuries and $1.2 billion in direct property damage per year;
  • Home fires caused by cooking peaked at Thanksgiving and Christmas;
  • Ranges or cooktops were involved in 62% of reported home cooking fires, 89% of cooking fire deaths and 79% of cooking fire injuries;
  • Households that use electric ranges have a higher risk of cooking fires and associated losses than those using gas ranges;
  • Unattended cooking was the leading cause of cooking fires and casualties. Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1% of these fires, but clothing ignitions led to 14% of the home cooking fire deaths; and
  • Almost one-third (30%) of the people killed by cooking fires were sleeping at the time. More than half (53%) of the non-fatal injuries occurred when people tried to control the fire themselves.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), cooking is also the leading cause of unreported home fires.

The vast majority of reported cooking fires were small. Cooking fires accounted for a much larger share of reported fires in apartments or other multifamily homes than in one- or two-family homes.

Ranges or cooktops were involved in 62 percent of reported home cooking fires, 89 percent of cooking fire deaths, and 79 percent of cooking fire injuries.

Households that used electric ranges showed a higher risk of cooking fires and associated losses than those using gas ranges. Unattended cooking was the leading cause of cooking fires and casualties.

Clothing was the item first ignited in less than one percent of these fires, but clothing ignition led to 14 percent of the home cooking fire deaths.

The NFPA has the following tips for cooking – generally – and specifically, over the holidays:

  • 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 serious burns;
  • 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;
  • Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags; and
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *