Vivid autumn colors, fallen leaves crunching beneath your feet and the smell of turkey dinner wafting through the air means Thanksgiving Day is almost here. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving Day is the leading holiday for home fires involving cooking equipment.

According to the US Fire Administration, cooking fires in residential buildings occurred more often on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year. In 2016, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) found an estimated 2,090 home fires were reported to fire departments around the United States on Thanksgiving Day, which is more than twice the average for the rest of the year. In half of the cooking fires that began with cooking materials (including food), cooking oil, fat, grease or similar substances were first ignited. Of the Thanksgiving fires, three-quarters were cooking-related. So, why are cooking fires so high on Thanksgiving? The NFPA found that distractions are the main cause.

“Fortunately, we have been very lucky over the last few years with our residents keeping safety in mind around Thanksgiving,” said New Lenox Fire Protection District Chief Adam Riegel. “We are hoping that our residents continue to practice safety while cooking throughout the upcoming season.”

The NLFPD wants New Lenox residents to keep the holiday season fire free by following these simple cooking safety guidelines.
 Be on Alert! Do not use the oven or stovetop if you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol.
 Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling, or boiling food. Turn off the stove if you leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time.
 If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
 Keep anything that can catch on fire – oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from your stovetop.
 If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding a lid over the pan. Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. Leave the lid on until the pan is completely cool. Never throw water into a grease fire. In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

Outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers can also pose a huge risk of injury and fires this time of year. They cook up juicy turkeys in the fraction of the time it takes to roast one in an indoor oven. Outdoor fryers heat gallons of cooking oil to very high temperatures to cook the turkey. The risk of this oil being spilled is significant, and the injuries and fires can be severe. The NFPA and NLFPD want all residents to be aware of the risk of injury associated with turkey fryers. For your own safety, use the oil-free models or refrain from using them altogether. Visit the New Lenox Fire District’s website to watch a demonstration on what can go wrong with turkey fryers and how quickly the fire spreads.

The primary mission of the New Lenox Fire and Ambulance Protection District is to provide a range of programs designed to protect the lives and property within New Lenox Village and Township from the effects for fires and sudden medical emergencies or exposure to dangerous conditions created by man or nature with professional, compassionate, and quality service.