Editorial: Be vigilant regarding fire safety, particularly around Thanksgiving

The tragic fire that claimed the life of a Finksburg man on Tuesday, the second fatal fire of 2018 in Carroll County, remains under investigation. There is no indication yet of what might have caused it. But with Thanksgiving now just a week away, it seems an appropriate time for a reminder about the importance of being vigilant regarding fire safety given that Turkey Day is considered to be the most dangerous of the year in terms of home fires.

The standard warnings apply. There were 1,319,500 fires in 2017 resulting in 3,400 deaths, according to U.S. Fire Administration statistics. During National Fire Prevention Week this year, the theme was “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.” Everyone was urged to look around their house or business for where a fire could start, identifying fire hazards. To listen for the smoke alarm, which should be outside every sleeping area and on every level of a home and checked regularly to be in working order. (Incidentally, this year, Maryland law began requiring all homeowners with homes that have battery-only operated alarms that were more than 10 years old to replace those alarms with sealed battery-operated smoke alarms with long-life batteries and hush button features. If you’re still replacing 9-volt batteries in your smoke alarms, it’s time for an upgrade.) To learn about their house or business and figure out two ways to exit every room in case of a fire, making sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are clutter free.


That advice should be heeded at all times. Because of the upcoming holiday, this is a particularly dangerous time for fires.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking is the leading cause of home fires. One out of 3 home fires begin in the kitchen — more than any other place in the home — and the No. 1 cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. According to NFPA data, Thanksgiving Day is the peak day all year for home-cooking fires.

State Farm, in 2017, said it paid more than $130 million for nearly 2,700 cooking/grease fire homeowner’s claims. Maryland accounted for the fourth-most claims of all states. The insurance company offers the following fire safety tips when cooking:

  • Keep a lid beside the pan when cooking. If a fire starts, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Never throw water on a kitchen fire.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stovetop, like oven mitts, wooden utensils, towels, etc.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher approved for cooking or grease fires nearby.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working.
  • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out. When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • Don’t forget to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
  • Cook outdoors on a flat level surface with a cleared radius of at least 10 feet. Don't use a turkey fryer on wooden structures, such as decks or patios.
  • Be attentive when cooking and never leave the fryer unattended.
  • Choose a smaller turkey for frying. A bird that's 8 to 10 pounds is best; pass on turkeys over 12 pounds.
  • Make sure the turkey is thawed and dry before cooking. Ice or water that mixes into the hot oil can cause flare-ups.

Here’s to a happy — and safe — Thanksgiving.