Beware of holiday fires

Did you know Thanksgiving holiday fires cause more property damage and claim more lives than residential structure fires on any other day?

Or that cooking is by far the leading cause of residential structure fires during the Thanksgiving holiday?

Last week, this column reminded readers that practicing cooking safety can prevent fires and unnecessary injuries in the home. This message is particularly important since the U.S. Fire Administration recently reported in its fire incident findings that structure fires on Thanksgiving day increase from 23 percent to 36 percent of the daily average.

Each year, nearly 4,300 fires in the United States occur on Thanksgiving day, causing 15 fatalities, about 50 injuries and nearly $27 million in property damage. The cause for residential cooking fires comes from food left unattended.

Thanksgiving day residential structure fires tend to cause more property damage and claim more lives but do not injure as many people as residential fires occurring on the average day. Why?

One reason may be the overall nature of the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving is a time when most families come together and enjoy an extensive meal. This meal requires members of the family to spend more time than usual cooking and preparing food in the kitchen. The lengthened amount of time in the kitchen coupled with the normal stressors during the holidays may cause many cooks to be easily distracted resulting in careless mistakes.

As Thanksgiving approaches, many Prince William County residents will sit down to a delectable turkey dinner. Be sure to cook up some “fire safe common sense” to help ensure that tragedy does not come between you and your family gathering around the dinner table. Please be mindful of the following:

Start holiday cooking with a clean stove, removing any build-up of grease that may be on the surface of the appliance. When cooking, use the back burners whenever possible, and keep pot handles turned in so they don’t extend over the stove where they can be easily bumped into.

With the increased use of turkey fryers, be sure to use them outdoors and away from combustible material. Place the fryer on a flat, stable surface and do not overfill the unit with cooking oil.

Do not move the fryer once it has been started, and only place turkeys that are completely thawed inside. Keep children away from the cooking unit and use a thermometer to gauge food temperature. Make sure the oil is completely cool before removing it from the fryer and never attempt to use water to extinguish or cool hot oil.

Remember, fires never take off the holidays.

A little practice can go a long way when it comes to safety around the Thanksgiving holiday.

This column is provided by the Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department’s public information office. Send questions or comments to DRF Responding to You, Suite 234, No. 1 County Complex Court, Prince William, VA 22192 or via e-mail to

[email protected].