Home fire risk more than doubles on Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day fires from 2011-2013 caused an estimated $28 million in property loss. (Photo: iStock)

Make sure you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen when preparing this year’s Thanksgiving feast because it’s better to be safe than sorry. An estimated 2,100 residential building fires were reported to fire departments in the United States on Thanksgiving Day for each year from 2011 to 2013, and caused an estimated 10 deaths, 50 injuries and $28 million in property loss, according to the U.S. Fire Administration and data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

Here’s a look at the home fire patterns on Thanksgiving, as well as a few safety tips to prevent your home from going up in flames this Thanksgiving holiday:

Be sure to keep anything that can catch fire — pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains — away from the stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generate heat. (Photo: iStock)

Fire risk doubles on Thanksgiving

The average number of reported residential building fires on Thanksgiving Day is more than double (2.1 times more) the average number of fires in homes on all days other than Thanksgiving.

Something to be thankful for: Residential Thanksgiving fires result in a lower average financial loss than fires on other days. (Photo: iStock)

Losses, injuries, fatalities

The good news: The average financial losses for Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings is less than for non-Thanksgiving Day fires.
The three-year average dollar loss for residential fires on Thanksgiving Day was $11,360 vs. $15,790 for non-Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings, according to the 2011-2013 National Fire Incident Reporting System data. In addition, home fire injuries and fatalities are lower on Thanksgiving Day than on other days of the year:

16.9 injuries on Thanksgiving vs. 28.4 injuries on non-Thanksgiving days.

3.4 fatalities on Thanksgiving vs. 5.2 fatalities on non-Thanksgiving days.

Cooking is the leading cause of all Thanksgiving Day fires in homes. (Photo: iStock)

Causes of fires

Cooking fires in residential buildings occur more often on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year. Cooking was, by far, the leading cause of all Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings at 72 percent, from 2011-2013. By comparison, cooking was the cause of 48 percent of residential building fires that occurred on all days of the year other than Thanksgiving. Heating, at 9 percent, was the next leading cause of Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings.

(Source: U.S.Fire Administration)

Time of day

Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings occur most frequently from noon to 3 p.m., when many people most likely were preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Fires then decline throughout the evening. This stands in contrast to the rest of the year, when residential building fires peak during “normal” dinnertime hours of 5 to 8 p.m.

The majority of Thanksgiving fires take place in single-family homes. (Photo: iStock)

Property type

The majority of Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings take place in one- and two-family dwellings (65 percent) followed by multifamily dwellings (29 percent). Other dwellings account for the other 5.6 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires.

Most Thanksgiving fires are limited to the object or room of origin. (Photo: iStock)

Extent of fire spread

In 74 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires in homes from 2011-2013, the fire was limited to the object of origin. An additional 12 percent of these fires were limited to the room of origin. The remaining 15 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires in homes extended beyond the room of origin. Annually, among all residential building fires, 56 percent are limited to the object of origin, an additional 20 percent are limited to the room of origin, and the remaining 25 percent extend beyond the room of origin.

Never attempt to carry a hot or burning pan to the sink. (Photo: iStock)

Safety tips

Safety in the kitchen is important, especially on Thanksgiving Day when there’s a lot of activity and people at home. Here are 20 Thanksgiving safety tips from the National Fire Prevention Association and the American Red Cross:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking on the stove top so you can keep an eye on the food.
  • Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
  • Long sleeves and loose clothing should be avoided while cooking as they can easily catch fire.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains — away from the stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generate heat.
  • Clean surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  • Keep children and pets away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay 3 feet away.
  • Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from coffee, gravy or vegetables could cause serious burns.
  • Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, purses or bags.
  • 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.
  • Never leave children alone in a room with a lit candle.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and know where it is located.
  • Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens and small appliances are turned off.
  • Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.
  • Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
  • Make sure turkey fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
  • To avoid oil spillover, don’t overfill the fryer.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.

In the event of a kitchen fire:

  • Stove top: Cautiously slide a cookie sheet or a lid over the pan and turn off the stove. Never attempt to carry a hot pan to the sink.
  • Oven: Close the oven door and turn off heat. Once the oxygen has been depleted the fire will go out. Wait until the oven has cooled before opening the door again. This applies to microwave ovens as well.
  • Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher.
  • Evacuate and call 911: If you are not able to extinguish the fire, activate the fire alarm for the building. If your home is not equipped with a monitored fire alarm, evacuate everyone and call 911 from your cell phone or a neighbor’s phone.