Cooking fire-related home insurance claims more than double on Thanksgiving compared with an average day in November, according to State Farm Insurance -- and Texas has the dubious honor of being No. 1 for culinary mishaps.
With 33 grease and cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day between 2005 and 2009, Texas leads the pack, with Illinois (22), Ohio (18), Michigan and New York (15 each), Florida (14), Pennsylvania (12), Indiana (11), and Missouri and South Carolina (10 each) rounding out the top 10.
What has insurance companies and fire safety organizations particularly concerned is the growing popularity of turkey frying. State Farm recently released a video showing the fiery consequences of misusing deep fryers, which heat up oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, tip easily and splatter oil if water or ice makes contact. Product safety certifier Underwriters Laboratories pulled its trusted approval label from every turkey fryer on the market in November 2010, citing fire hazard concerns.
Because of the large amount of oil used for deep frying, a mistake can spark a fire that rapidly engulfs a home. Of the roughly 4,300 Thanksgiving Day fires each year, 3 percent can be tied to deep fryers, according to U.S. Fire Administration data.
The National Fire Protection Association has gone so far as to issue a statement that independent product testing on turkey fryers is inadequate and that the fryers should not be used, even by well-prepared consumers. According to NFPA data, fryers caused five deaths and $15 million in lost property between 2003 and 2006.
Homeowners who do choose to fry a turkey this Thanksgiving should take the following steps, courtesy of NFPA:
Never leave the fryer unattended, and keep children and pets away.
- Never use a turkey fryer in a garage or other enclosed area, or on a wooden deck.
- Keep the fryer on a flat surface. If the fryer tips or wobbles, oil can spill and ignite.
- Never overfill the fryer. Using too much oil can cause it to spill over the edges of the pot when the turkey is lowered in.
- Use proper safety gear, such as goggles, heavy-duty mitts and insulated potholders.
- Thaw the turkey thoroughly in the refrigerator before frying, and never put ice inside to pot to cool down the oil. If a frozen turkey or ice contacts the oil, it will splatter and ignite.
- If a grease fire does occur, do not use water to put it out, as it will spread the fire. Use a fire extinguisher instead.