Cooking fires and burn injuries peak during holidays

Burn injuries spike on holiday cooking days, but you can stay safe

Tis the season to be jolly, but there’s nothing jolly about being carted off to an emergency room or burn unit to treat serious burn injuries suffered while cooking a holiday feast.

The fact is, cooking fires and the burn injuries that result skyrocket, especially on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Christmas Eve, when millions of people spend a lot more time in the kitchen than they do on most ordinary days.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that Thanksgiving is the worst with four times more kitchen burn injuries happening on that day than any other.

Between 2010-2014, firefighters responded to an average 166,100 home fires per year that were cooking related. Some 480 of these resulted in death, 5,540 were treated for major or minor burn injuries, and property damage is estimated at $1.1 billion.

Part of this seems like just common sense: There’s a lot more cooking going on, hours in the kitchen increase dramatically, and then add in the stress, noise and people crowding homes during a holiday, and more accidents result.

But studies and hard data backup common sense notions. NFPA researchers have identified key causes for a trend that has been rising over the past decade.

One of the primary culprits is the new popularity of large deep fryers for cooking whole turkeys. These units hold four to five gallons of sizzling oil, and dropping a 15-pound turkey into such a roiling vat can cause a flaming explosion if not done with extreme care.

Other kinds of cooking tools are used during the holidays for aesthetic or festive reasons, such as candle-warmed plates or butter pans, or just including candles on the kitchen table. All of the above are easily knocked over, or can make contact with grease and other common kitchen flammables

Another major cause of burns are distractions. During the holidays homes are filled with running. shouting children and multiple adult guests. A cook who is juggling more than the usual number of dishes can easily be distracted, and that’s when accident happen.

Still another factor may not surprise you – drinking alcohol while cooking. Certainly, nothing is more natural than a glass of “Christmas cheer” – wine, eggnog, or a fine liqueur – but getting a little tipsy while cooking over a fire or electrical appliance is a bad combination.

Still another cause identified by NFPA experts are holiday decorations in the kitchen. Wreaths, decorative ribbons and other wall hangings are often highly flammable and can easily catch a spark when set too close to kitchen cooking areas.

The primary preventer of kitchen fires is a heightened awareness that accidents spike on Thanksgiving Day, and then Christmas Day and Christmas Eve respectively. Stay sober while cooking, use common sense and keep the kitchen as uncluttered as possible in terms of both people and material items, especially decorations.

Finally, it’s said that “too many cooks spoil the soup.” Well. too many people crowding the kitchen can lead to cooking fires. So keep your cooking area organized, and have a happy holiday.

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