State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said Thanksgiving should be a time of family and fellowship, but it can be a time for disaster if precautions are not followed.

“Thanksgiving is the one time of the year when the emphasis is on food, and it’s usually a meal prepared in a short period of time,” Paulk said. “Cooking takes place in kitchens for extended periods of time. Things are hot, things are spilled, something is left on the stove unattended — and those can be recipes for disaster.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires. Reports indicate the number of home-cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day was three times the national average for fires per day in 2009.

“With so much multi-tasking going on, fire hazards around the oven or stove top can easily be overlooked,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for the National Fire Protection Association.

She said cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and related injuries. From 2005-09, there were an average of 155,400 home fires per year that involved cooking equipment, according to a study by the fire protection association.

The study noted those fires caused an annual average of 390 deaths, 4,800 injuries and more than

$770 million in property


“Everybody is trying to get everything done, everyone is frantic getting this big meal cooked,” Muscle Shoals Fire Marshal Donald Ray Coon said. “And when you get in a hurry, things can happen. When you’re dealing with cooking equipment, getting in a hurry can cause


Paulk said one of the biggest concerns is allowing children into a kitchen where the stove and other equipment as well as dishes are hot.

“Don’t let small children around a hot stove, and don’t leave stoves unattended,” Paulk said.

On Nov. 11, a 3-year-old Franklin County girl died from injuries sustained in a house fire. The state fire marshal’s office ruled the fire started from grease on the kitchen stove.

“And when a fire starts in a kitchen, it goes quickly because there can be so many combustible items there,” Paulk said.

Coon said people who use deep fryers also need to be cautious.

“Don’t overfill the fryer with oil. Make sure you know how much to use,” he said. “If you fill it too full, then drop in the turkey or whatever you’re deep frying, oil can spill over onto the flames or burners and ignite.”

Another problem Paulk said is commonly overlooked is the use of extension cords.

“This time of year people will misuse extension cords, they’ll have four or five crock pots plugged in to keep things warm and can cause an overload, which could lead to an electrical fire,” Paulk said. “Or, people will cover (the extension cords) to hide them because they look ugly. That can cause another hazard — when heat builds up, the wires can overheat and set combustibles on fire.”

Paulk said using common sense is the key to fire


“Don’t take risks, and watch for potential problems, that’s the key,” Coon added. “We’re just trying to make sure everyone has a safe Thanksgiving.”

Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757.


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