American Thanksgiving and The Dangers of Cooking Fires


As Americans travel short and long distances to their Thanksgiving dinner, thoughts will inevitably drift to: What will we talk about? What’s politically correct? How do I avoid mentioning politics? Or the wrong pronoun? Here’s a safe topic for discussion. In fact, it’s not just a safe topic, it may turn you into a Thanksgiving dinner hero. Ready?  ‘Cooking fire safety’. Wait!!!! It’s not nearly as dry as you might think. It really could make you a hero. The hero that helps prevent a fire before it even starts! So, have the cooking fire safety conversation with your friends, your family, your neighbors, your tenants, or yourself. Just have it.

With so many meals being prepared and served, kitchens across the nation will be buzzing at full tilt. Millions of Americans packed close together in one room (obviously not the same room), with lots of distractions… what could go wrong?  Sadly, too much.  Can it surprise any of us that American Thanksgiving is the peak day for home structure cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. In 2016, it was reported that U.S. Fire Departments responded to more than 1,500 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day alone. Now, if you think you or your tenants are safe because you all eat the day before Thanksgiving – that’s a high-risk day too. And don’t underestimate the scale of the risk. Cooking fires are the leading cause of all home or apartment fires and cause more than $1 billion in direct property damage each year. That could buy a lot of turkeys.

The Cooking Dangers

As the tenants in your property prepare for their Thanksgiving, now is a good time to prepare some messaging for them about cooking fire safety. Remind them that while kitchens can be hazardous at the best of times, they can be especially risky when filled with people and many distractions. With that in mind, let’s ask the key question: How do most cooking fires start?

Unattended Cooking

If your tenants have guests over for the holiday, distractions in the kitchen are very possible – if not likely.  Friends who share stories, gossip, and reminisce, while siblings call out scores, and children scream louder than dogs can bark: The reasons for distracted cooking are multiplied on Thanksgiving. And whatever the reason, unattended cooking is by far the leading contributing factor to cooking related fires, injuries and deaths.

Cooking Equipment

With so much food being cooked at once, it’s easy for your tenants and their guests to overlook a pan getting too hot, oil boiling too high, or other combustible items that are simply too close to the stove top. Cooking equipment was involved in almost half of all reported home fires and home fire injuries.Electric stove ranges accounted for the largest share of incidents, but (especially on Thanksgiving) frying poses the greatest risk of fire.

Too Close to the Heat

Even kitchens that are normally neat and tidy become a whirlwind of activity during Thanksgiving preparations. With pots and pans on stoves, and so many other items on countertops throughout the kitchen, it can be easy to overlook a potential danger. Two-thirds of home cooking fires started when food or other cooking materials caught on fire. Appliance cords get too close to burners, wooden utensils are left near flames, and dishcloths are left too close to the cooking area. Any and all of these mistakes can lead to Thanksgiving, quite literally, going up in smoke.

Too Many Appliances

Thanksgiving preparation in a small space, such as an apartment, means that several appliances may be plugged into limited electrical sockets. Electric frying pans, slow cookers, griddles, and coffee makers might all be plugged in simultaneously. Pair that with other family members drying their hair or charging their phones, and it’s easy to see how outlets might get overloaded. This could put everyone in the building at risk of an electrical fire.

Safety Measures

As your tenants prepare for their Thanksgiving dinner with their friends and families, safety isn’t always at the forefront of their minds. As a property manager, you might be thinking how you can help prevent cooking fires? While you can’t control your tenants’ actions, you can remind your tenants to be cautious and safe while preparing for the festivities. Sharing the following tips and being prepared yourself can help decrease the risk of fire and ensure everyone has a joyous and safe holiday.

  • Test Smoke Alarms – Ensure fire alarms are securely in place and the batteries are working when conducting property inspections. Encourage your tenants to do a quick test themselves before they begin kitchen preparations for the big day.
  • Clean Before Cooking – It’s important that tenants make sure their ovens and stove tops are free of grease before they begin cooking their mashed potatoes and green bean casseroles. It’s also important to check that their kitchen vents are functioning properly.
  • Don’t Leave Cooking Unattended – Remind your tenants to stay in the kitchen when using the stove top. If they have to step out of the kitchen – even for a brief moment – they should turn the heat down or off, or have someone take their place until they return. They should also stay inside the home when cooking the turkey and check on it often.
  • Keep a Watchful Eye Out – It’s important that your tenants pay attention, not only to the food, but to the area around the stove. Items that can catch fire should never be carelessly tossed aside or left too close to the cooking area. Keep oven mitts, electrical cords, dishcloths, wooden utensils, and even shirt sleeves at a safe distance.
  • Turn Handles –Turn pot and pan handles inward and away from the edge of the stove. This will prevent them from being jostled and knocked off.
  • Prevent Electrical Fires – Ask your tenants to limit the number of appliances they use simultaneously. If plugging in multiple items at once, tenants should use approved power strips to reduce the risk of electrical-related problems or an electrical fire.
  • Always be Prepared – One simple thing you can do, as a property manager, is remind tenants of the emergency/fire exits, and ensure that they are kept clean.
  • Install fire prevention technology – Above all else, the best way to ensure safety during this time of the year is to install the right technology that prevents fires before they happen in the first place. Products such as the SmartBurner and the SmartElement are beneficial as they have been designed to prevent burners from reaching temperatures in which cooking oils can ignite. Other preventative products, such as the SmartMicro or SmartRange, prevent fires by turning off the microwave at the first sign of smoke or the glass top stove at the first sign of cooking fire risk. No fires, no injuries, no property loss.

Cooking fires are real and pose a serious threat, especially on Thanksgiving. This holiday season, it’s important that you, as a property manager, keep your tenants safe by informing them of the dangers and providing them with adequate tips for a safe holiday. Staying current on trends and technology that can be used to help prevent the risk of cooking fires, is another way you can help keep your tenants, and your property safe.


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