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Firefighters offer tips for avoiding turkey fryer hazards

By Staff | Nov 26, 2013

The Cape Coral Fire Department is reminding residents about the dangers of using turkey fryers and general cooking fires this the holiday season.

“Cape Coral Fire Department is being proactive with this demonstration,” said department Public Information Officer Michael Heeder. “We see in the news and statistics every year about home damage and people injured by the improper use of turkey fryers. Our goal is to have zero injuries due to cooking fires during the holidays.”

Firefighters demonstrated both the proper and improper use of a turkey fryer Tuesday at Fire Station 1. A frozen turkey was lowered into a fryer of hot oil which resulted in a boilover of the oil, which erupted into flames from the fuel source. A T-shirt next to the fryer representing a person was quickly splashed with hot oil, which could catch fire causing serious burns.

“Thanksgiving is the number one holiday for cooking fires,” said Heeder. “We are using this demonstration as an opportunity to educate people on how to prevent damage and injuries.”

Though Heeder said the department has not responded to a turkey fryer fire in the Cape in recent years, firefighters do respond to cooking related fires especially around the holidays.

“We get calls ranging from smoke in the kitchen to full cooking fires every year,” Heeder said. “All fryers, especially older ones, are dangerous if used improperly. Read the instructions and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for use.”

Heeder laid out department tips for turkey fryer use:

n Never put a frozen turkey in hot oil, it could have explosive consequences;

n Be sure the turkey is thawed to a proper cool preparation temperature. It takes two to three days to properly thaw in a refrigerator;

n Lowering the turkey into the oil should be done slowly and deliberately to reduce oil splashing, spills and ignition;

n Never leave a turkey fryer unattended, even for a short time, and always have a fire extinguisher approved for a grease or cooking fire nearby.

Turkey frying is becoming more popular because it is faster than the traditional oven cooking method. Frying takes 3 1/2 to 4 minutes per pound at a maximum oil temperature of 350 degrees. The frying method locks in the bird’s natural juices.

While the flames and oil splash at the demonstration was not as spectacular as hoped, it did prove the point.

“The main thing to take away from this demonstration is that the fire and hot oil still can cause someone to have second degree burns that require hospitalization,” said Heeder.

According to statistics published by insurer State Farm, cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries with Florida ranking 10th in the nation for grease and cooking-related claims on Thanksgiving Day alone between 2005 and 2012.

Texas ranked No. 1 in the country with 38 reported Thanksgiving Day cooking incidents during that time frame. Florida reported 14 claims. The other states in the top 10 are Illinois (27), Pennsylvania and Ohio (23), New York (22), South Carolina and Georgia (16), Minnesota and Michigan (15). California, Indiana and Louisiana tied Florida with 14 reported claims.

State Farm statistics show the total number of claims on Thanksgiving in 2010 was 66, but declined to 29 in 2012, which is the lowest number of claims in a decade.