DECEMBER 10, 2012
The Alexandria Fire Department along with the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) remind everyone that home fires are more prevalent in winter than in any other season. This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires. Holiday decorations and winter storms that can interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative heating sources also contribute to the increased risk of fire in winter. Winter fires can be prevented! Learn more about maintaining a fire-safe home this winter season at USFA's website.
The Alexandria Fire Department wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday season. Each year fires occurring during the holiday season injure 2,600 individuals and cause over $930 million in damage. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), there are simple life-saving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some of the outlined precautionary tips, individuals can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.
- Christmas Tree Fire Safety - Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
- Selecting a Tree for the Holiday - Needles should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
- Caring for Your Tree - Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
- Disposing of Your Tree - Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.
- Artificial Trees - If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
- Choose the Right Type of Holiday Lights - Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
- Maintain Your Holiday Lights - Inspect lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
- Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets - Do not link more than three light strands. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.
- Do Not Leave Holiday Lights on Unattended
- Use Only Nonflammable Decorations - All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
- Never Put Wrapping Paper in a Fireplace - It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home that could cause an explosion.
- Avoid Using Lit Candles – If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.
- Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree - Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame - candles, lighters or matches.
Deep-fired turkey has been a longtime food favorite in the southern United States. The deep-fried turkey popularity has grown to include the eastern United States and the City of Alexandria. While some people rave about this tasty creation, Underwriters Laboratories Inc.'s (UL) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPCS) safety experts and the City of Alexandria are concerned that backyard chefs may be sacrificing safety for good taste.
Deep-frying turkeys can lead to severe injury and even devastation by fire in the following ways:
- Many units easily tip over spilling the hot oil within the cooking pot causing severe burns or extensive fire.
- If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil it may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.
- Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect. This too, may result in an extensive fire and/or severe burns.
- With no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
- The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.
To prevent severe injuries, burns and devastation by intense fire the cook should follow all of the manufacturer’s recommendation and the following safety tips provided by Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPCS):
- Only deep fry smaller turkeys—up to 12 pounds.
- Use oils with high smoke points such as peanut, canola and safflower. (Peanut oil adds flavor, but it can be a concern if guests have peanut allergies.)
- To determine how much oil you’ll need, put the turkey in the basket and place in the pot. Add water until it reaches one to two inches above the turkey. Lift the turkey out and use a ruler to measure the distance from the water to the top of the fryer. Pour out the water and dry the fryer completely. Add oil to the point marked in the pot.
- Remember that it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to heat the oil, depending on the outside temperature, wind and weather.
- Before frying, pat the turkey dry with paper towels to keep the hot oil from splattering and popping.
- Slowly lower the turkey into the oil, and maintain an oil temp of 350ºF. Fry turkey for three to four minutes per pound or about 35 to 42 minutes for a 10- to 12-pound turkey.
- Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors at a safe distance from buildings and any other material that can burn.
- Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.
- Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
- Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you don't watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
- Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow children or pets near the turkey fryer. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
- To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
- Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
- Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water don't mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
- The National Turkey Federation recommends refrigerator thawing and to allow approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of bird thawed in the refrigerator.
- Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. Remember to use your best judgment when attempting to fight a fire. If the fire is manageable, use an all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call 911 for help.
Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.
For more information, contact Robert Rodriguez, Chief Fire Marshal / Community Services Officer, Alexandria Fire Department, at 703.746.5217, firstname.lastname@example.org or the Alexandria Fire Department’s Community Services Unit at 703.746.5260.