The big day is upon us, belts are loosening, mouths are drooling and, hopefully, cooks are thinking about safety as they prepare what for many people is the biggest meal of the year.
Safety is a major concern and lack of adherence to it could spoil any Thanksgiving Day meal, Guadalupe County assistant fire marshal Bryce Houlton said.
“We have our little caveat, it’s not a good Thanksgiving if the fire marshal shows up at your house,” he said “Last couple years, knock on wood, we haven’t had any Thanksgiving Day fires. We’d like to keep that going.”
Thanksgiving offers a host of ways for people to get hurt, Houlton said. People taking to the kitchen to create great feasts and inviting guests to fill up the house sometimes mixes for bad results, he said.
In the county, things don’t get crazy but the fire marshal’s office sees an increase in holiday-related calls, Houlton said.
“We see an up tick usually of a couple here and there,” he said. “Usually it’s not a big problem, but we see an up tick of scolding burns and small fires.”
It’s not a problem specific to the county, Houlton said, as he provided some numbers to give a national context.
An average of at least two people are killed each year on Thanksgiving while cooking dinner per every 1,000 fires in the country, Houlton said. He said 11 people are injured per every 1,000 fires each year in the United States.
Those fires and injuries can be expensive, the assistant fire marshal added.
“The average dollar loss per fire is about $8,000, minimum,” Houlton said.
People try to fry turkeys at home, which also can be a harrowing adventure if done improperly, he said. Properly means frying the bird in a well-ventilated space, not inside a house or garage, Houlton said.
He offered other turkey-frying safety tips.
“Make sure they use the proper amount of oil and it’s not boiling over,” Houlton said. “People don’t check the amount of oil they’re putting in the pot. They put the turkey in there and it overflows.
“It comes in contact with that open flame and it can combust. It makes a bad situation even worse.”
Before even lowering the holiday fowl into the oil, cooks should make sure they’ve completed a very important step, Seguin Fire Marshal Greg Dreiss said.
“You always want to make sure before you put a turkey into a fryer that the turkey is completely defrosted,” he said. “A frozen turkey will cause the oil to expand and catch on fire.”
Seguin sees about one or two Thanksgiving holiday fires each year. They don’t always happen on Thanksgiving but oftentimes are cooking-related and very near the big day, Dreiss said.
“People don’t always fry the turkey on Thanksgiving but in the days leading up to it,” he said. “I think there was a guy frying a turkey in a garage and it burned the garage up. I believe that was two years ago.”
Additional guests in the home for the holidays add to the possibility of accidents, Houlton said. Hosts should make sure smoke detectors are operational and tell their guests of the fire emergency escape plans, he said.
Cooking equipment should be clean and in proper working order, Houlton continued. Much of what is required to ensure a safe and happy holiday falls in the line of common sense, he said.
“If they are using their stove and cook top, make sure it’s in working order, clean, make sure there is no leftover grease at the bottom of the stove to catch on fire and cause any problems,” Houlton said. “Just basic cooking safety: Make sure the little ones aren’t around the stove and hot liquids.”
Anyone interested in learning more can gather a group, contact the city fire marshal’s office and get some tips during a cooking safety program for adults his office presents, Dreiss said.
“It takes about 30 to 45 minutes,” he said. “We’ve taught that quite a few times around the city and we’re always willing to teach it more. The more we teach it, the safer our community is.”