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Las Vegas firefighters offer Thanksgiving safety cooking tips

Updated November 24, 2021 - 10:59 am

Frozen turkeys erupt in fireballs as soon as they sink in boiling oil.

The moments are captured in public safety videos, typically filmed by firefighters in safe environments. The cautionary exercise conducted in the days leading up to Thanksgiving can be amusing for those who know to not put frozen food in oil, or shocking for those who might not.

The holiday is the busiest day of the year for cooking-related fires across the nation, with more than triple the workload for firefighters, the National Fire Protection Association, which named the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays as the next busiest says.

Tim Szymanski, a spokesman with Las Vegas Fire Department, said the explosions do happen but admitted he could not remember responding to one in his decades-long career.

From 2017 to 2019, there was an average of 2,300 fires reported on the Thanksgiving holiday each year, causing an average of five deaths and 25 injuries, and doing about $26 million in damages, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

For at least the past five years, Las Vegas seems to have been the exception to the rule, Szymanski said.

In 2020, the Fire Department responded to only three oven fires, he added. Neither caused serious injuries, he said.

“People have been doing a fantastic job,” Szymanski said. “I don’t want to ruin our batting average.”

He rehashed safety tips for valley residents to continue the mostly uneventful streak:

■ Frozen food should be completely thawed and dried before it is placed in fryers.

■ Turkey fryers, which Szymanski said are not nationally recognized for safety and sustainability standards, should only be used outdoors and at least 10 feet away from any structure.

■ The same applies to grills and other propane cookers.

■ If a fire breaks out in an oven, the appliance should be turned off and the door kept closed to suffocate the flames.

Once the home is evacuated, someone should call the fire department to help clear out the smoke.

■ The best way to extinguish a pan fire is to turn off the flame, cover it with a lid, a cutting board or a similar item. Adding water will only worsen the blaze. Fire extinguishers also are recommended.

■ During “heavy cooking” times, windows and doors should be opened for five minutes each hour to clear out the naturally produced carbon monoxide.

— Carbon monoxide detectors, which are not legally required but recommended, have reduced poisoning calls.

“It’s easy to become distracted during the holidays,” Clark County Fire Chief John Steinbeck wrote in a statement. “Make sure your household smoke detectors are in good working order in case of fire, and never leave cooking food unattended in a kitchen.”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @rickytwrites.

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