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Posted by on Nov 26, 2008 in Arts & Entertainment, Health | 5 comments

Fire Departments: Deep Fried Turkey Could Pose Serious Fire Hazard


WARNING: Deep fried turkey could be hazardous to your health and draining on your insurance policies, since sometimes when people deep fry turkey, the poultry turkey isn’t the only turkey that gets fried.

The word is getting out across the United States and even beyond:

Fire Departments across the United States are warning that deep fried turkey is a fire hazard.

Deep fried Turkey has become popular in recent years at Thanksgiving due to the method’s ability to produce a turkey that isn’t dried out as can be the case with oven cooking. Deep fry turkey cookers are available and ways to deep fry turkey have been demonstrated on popular cooking shows.

The dangers with deep-frying turkeys revolve around the spilling oil that can start a fire. As the video below shows, putting the turkey in too quickly can cause a large fire in seconds.

Authorities are recommending that you don’t deep fry your turkey, but if you absolutely must, it should be done outdoors and well clear of buildings and any other material that can burn. Fryers should only be used on a flat surface, and should never be placed on wooden decks or in garages.

So the word is getting out…and the Internet is helping to spread the word in the hopes that perhaps fewer fires will spread, and hospital emergency rooms might be slightly emptier this year.

Actually, fried turkey is just one fire peril on turkey day: the 2006 and 2007 Thanksgiving days were the top day in the United States for home cooking fires, reports the National Fire Protection Association. More than 1,400 structural fires in each of those years started from home cooking equipment — three times greater than the daily nationwide average.

So the word is getting out this year. For instance, the New York Times’ City Room blog has this:

Deep-fried turkey is juicy and quick. Emeril Lagasse has endorsed it. Martha Stewart has endorsed it. It’s a Thanksgiving tradition with a kick. It’s also an incredible fire hazard.

The turkey fryers — which combine gallons of boiling oil, open propane gas fires and often unstable frames — can easily become flame throwers, fire safety experts say.

Because of the number of fires and burns, national fire safety groups essentially urge people not to fry turkeys. The city’s Fire Department has issued a warning about turkey fryers. And Underwriters Laboratories, a nonprofit group that gives safety certifications for everything from hair dryers to space heaters, has refused to put its UL safety mark on any turkey deep fryer.

“There are no UL listed turkey fryers because the turkey fryers on the market do not have the level of safety features we deem necessary,” said John Drengenberg, a spokesman for UL.

How big is the risk? Big enough that Dallas’ Parkland Hospital even put out a news release this year:

This Thanksgiving season, health care professionals from Parkland Health & Hospital System’s Regional Burn Center are hoping to spread holiday cheer in the form of education.

“Before people sit down to eat, it’s especially important to pay attention to the preparation of the meal,” explains Sue Vanek, burn program coordinator at Parkland. “One unsuspecting danger not frequently recognized is burn injuries and fires related to turkey fryers, which can be easily prevented.”

Popular in the south, deep frying is an alternative method of cooking a turkey in which food is submerged in hot oil or fat.

According to Vanek, fires and injuries result in several ways:

*Oil can be heated to the point that a fire occurs
*Oil can overflow and catch fire as the turkey is submerged
*The fryer can tip over and spill oil on individuals causing a burn injury
*The fryer can become hot and cause a contact burn injury when touched

For the fried turkey lovers, here are a few tips to help prevent a Thanksgiving disaster:

*Only use the turkey fryer outdoors; they should not be used on decks, in the garage or any enclosed space
*Never leave the fryer unattended
*Keep children away from the fryer and propane tank
*Monitor the temperature of the oil closely
*Follow manufactures instructions

There are warnings from Fire Chiefs in Rhode Island:

The Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs (RIAFC) wants to remind home cooks to think of safety first if Thanksgiving plans call for a deep fried turkey.

Cooking fires are more likely to happen on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. In 2005, cooking fires were involved in roughly 1,300 reported home structure fires on Thanksgiving – nearly three times the daily average.

Deep fryers can quickly get out of control due to the high temperature of the oil, which can easily boil over and make contact with the flame, causing a large, explosive fire. For those home cooks who must have a deep fried turkey this Thanksgiving, the RIAFC offers the following tips:

Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other material that can burn. Many units easily tip over, so be sure fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping. Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.

The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards. 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.

If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner/flames causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.

In Florida, officials tried an experiment which ended in what was not necessarily a blaze of glory:

Florida’s Broward Sheriff Office recently put on their annual demonstration of what can happen if you don’t deep fry a turkey properly, especially if you use a propane gas powered fryer.

Dumping a cold turkey into hot oil can cause a boil-over which could cause a fire, or even worse, burns to the chef and bystanders.

Experts also recommend that those who prefer fried turkey purchase one from a grocer, food retailer or restaurant that prepares them using professional equipment.

And since a picture is worth a thousand words (and a medical bill can be worth a thousand dollars) here’s a peek at what they produced: