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Remember, Only You Can Prevent Kitchen Fires and Other Holiday Hazards

By Kathy Hubbard


If you’re like me, you’re scurrying around trying to make-ahead as many dishes as possible, getting the house cleaned, and basically stressing out today so I won’t tomorrow. It makes sense to me, but we all know what stress can do for us, and it’s nothing good.

My advice is to take a deep breath, stay hydrated, and live in the moment. Remember that this holiday is about food, family, friends, and fun and not about award-winning cranberry sauce or lump-free mashed potatoes.

But, there is one thing I want you to think about (not dwell on) while you’re preparing this feast, and that’s the fact that most kitchen fires occur on Thanksgiving followed up by Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and the day before Thanksgiving in that order.

“Unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in cooking fires and fire deaths,” the National Fire Protection Association tells us. “Cooking equipment was involved in almost half of all reported home fires and home fire injuries, and it is the second leading cause of home fire deaths.”

That reminded me of a co-worker some years ago who had purchased one of those disposable, aluminum pans to cook her turkey. Somehow it sprang a leak, and while she was dinking around doing something outside, the drippings caught fire, and although her house didn’t burn down, she went to the emergency department with severe burns.

It’s not surprising, then, that one of the top ten safety tips for Thanksgiving on the NFPA website is, “Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.”

Not just somewhere in the house, you should stay in the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop. Food can go from boiling to scorched in no time flat. That’s not only a fire hazard, but a potential stress inducer, and remember we don’t want either one.

NFPA says to keep children away from the stove, away from hot food and liquids, away from matches and utility lighters and that knives and electrical cords should be kept out of reach. I say, teach your children to be aware of what’s going on and to help safely.

For instance, NFPA says that kids aged three to five can get ingredients out of the refrigerator, measure, and mix ingredients together, pour liquids into a bowl, and use a cookie-cutter. They also can wash fruits and vegetables, assuming they can reach the sink.

Kids aged six to eight can “use a butter knife to spread frosting, cream cheese, peanut butter or soft cheese, peel vegetables and set the table.” By the time they’re in the nine to twelve bracket, they can follow a recipe, open cans, use a grater, turn the stove on and off (with adult supervision), and make a salad.

By the time they’re fourteen, they should be able to “operate the stove or oven without an adult present.” This leads me to believe that they should be able to make the entire dinner while you sit with your feet up watching Macy’s parade. No?

One of the most important safety tips is to keep your floors clear. Make sure there aren’t any toys underfoot and wipe up any spills immediately. I remember how one holiday was totally ruined when my mother-in-law slipped and broke her wrist. None of us wanted to spend a holiday in the emergency department but we’re all thankful that we have one.

If you use candles on your centerpiece, make sure they don’t ignite any foliage as they burn down. And always extinguish candles if you aren’t in the same room with them. And, if you didn’t remember to do it when we changed the clocks back, change the smoke alarm batteries right now.

NFPA says, “Practice your good judgment. This happens when you’re sober and not under the influence. So drink responsibly, especially if you’re hosting or driving!”

I’m going to give thanks for my great family and friends, my good health, my loyal readers, and for Bonner General Health. What are you thankful for?


Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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