Fire safety experts offer tips for a safe Thanksgiving

Nov. 24—Niagara County Director of Emergency Services Jon Schultz remembers the incident well, even though it happened a few years ago.

A county resident was busy preparing his Thanksgiving turkey in an air fryer on the back deck of his home. The fryer was just outside the back door of the home and when a grease spatter ignited in flames, the fire immediately set the siding of the home ablaze.

Schultz said incidents like that are not uncommon.

"One third of home fires occur during the holidays," he said. "So you need to be careful."

The Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY), made up of most of the volunteer fire companies in the state, is also warning folks that the holiday season can be a dangerous season in and around the home. Historically, the association says, the holidays lead to more home cooking and more home cooking fires.

Heading into what FASNY calls "the peak home fire season", New York has already experienced 118 home fire fatalities, compared to 85 a year ago, an almost 50% increase.

"Our state's volunteer firefighters hope that all New Yorkers have a safe and happy holiday," FASNY President Edward Tase, Jr. said. "When preparing your Thanksgiving feast and other upcoming holiday meals, remember to take important safety precautions."

Schultz said the popular practice of deep-frying turkeys can lead to serious burns and property damage and stressed the importance of following the directions provided by fryer manufacturers.

"Make sure your turkey fryer is away from the house," Schultz said. "Use it in your driveway or in the backyard. and make sure your turkey is thawed."

FASNY called turkey frying "extremely dangerous." The association suggest that if you want to fry your turkey you, "use your turkey fryer only outdoors on a sturdy, level surface that is well away from things that can burn. Turkey fryers can easily tip over spilling hot oil across a large area."

According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), Thanksgiving is the leading day for home cooking fires, with 1,630 breaking out in 2018 — 250% above the daily average. The second highest day for home cooking fires was Christmas Day, with 740 incidents. Tase said a large number of those incidents are a result of leaving your cooking unattended. Firefighters call commonly call that "meat on the stove."

The advice from FASNY is to "remain in the kitchen while cooking. It's always a good idea to supervise cooking directly. Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it's for "just a second."

A second is all it takes for a house fire to start."

The association also says that the holidays are a perfect time to make sure your smoke detectors are functioning properly. If needed, replace the detector's batteries.