A firefighter from the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron prepares to extinguish a turkey fryer fire during a safety demonstration at the fire training area on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Nov. 27, 2013. Maintaining a safe distance from buildings and other flammable objects can prevent potential fires. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin)

ITHACA, N.Y. — In an average year, house fires double on Thanksgiving compared to other days, according to a press release from the Ithaca Fire Department. Cooking is the leading cause of house fires, and in the chaos of preparing a feast it’s easy for things to go wrong.

The Ithaca Fire Department shared tips to make sure everyone stays safe this holiday, including those pulling out the deep fryer.

Lieutenant Tom Basher stressed the importance of being aware of hazards while there’s a flurry of Thanksgiving activity in your home.

“It’s just one of those things that we try to be proactive about instead of reactive. In the past, people would read about a fire on Christmas or Thanksgiving after the fact and now we try to let people know of fire safety tips beforehand,” he said.

A spike in the popularity of turkey fryers has elevated holiday danger. The U.S. Fire Administration warns that frying poses the greatest risk for fire.

“I have eaten turkey from a fryer and it’s delicious,” Basher said, but he strongly cautioned those who choose turkey fryers over the oven. “I have watched, personally, people do some very unwise things with turkey fryers… If you use a turkey fryer, do it outside, well away from your house,” he said.

Basher also said to make sure your turkey is completely thawed prior to frying and to keep fryers far from combustible materials, like gasoline or propane.

Here are all of the Ithaca Fire Department’s safety tips for turkey fryers:

  • Turkey fryers can easily tip over, spilling hot cooking oil over a large area.
  • An overfilled cooking pot will cause cooking oil to spill when the turkey is put in, and a partially frozen turkey will cause cooking oil to splatter when put in the pot.
  • Even a small amount of cooking oil spilling on a hot burner can cause a large fire.
  • Without thermostat controls, deep fryers can overheat oil to the point of starting a fire.
  • The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles can get dangerously hot.

Whether frying, roasting, or opting for tofurkey, here are tips everyone can use to stay safe this Thanksgiving:

  • Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
  • Keep children away from the stove and from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from hot vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
  • 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.
  • Never leave children alone in a room with a lit a candle.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button

Featured image: A firefighter from the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron prepares to extinguish a turkey fryer fire during a safety demonstration at the fire training area on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Nov. 27, 2013. Maintaining a safe distance from buildings and other flammable objects can prevent potential fires. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin)

Mitchell Wajda

Mitchell Wajda is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice and a senior at Ithaca College where he studies screenwriting. Mitchell can be reached via email at wajda.mitchell@gmail.com.