Driving and deep-fried turkeys can present hazards during Thanksgiving, but the most unsuspecting hazards can lead to holiday disaster, said Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry.
In the home
“Candles, almost every household in the area has a candle burning,” Cherry said. “If left unattended, they could start a fire.”
Cherry said in some instances a candle can break its glass container. He said if the candle is left on a desk with papers or near other combustible materials there is a potential fire risk.
“A candle left burning unattended is always a hazard if placed near the curtains,” Cherry said, “and the heater could kick on, blowing the curtain closer to the flame.”
Cherry said other possible hazards during this time of year are the fireplace and wood-burning stoves. He said residents should properly clear and maintain fireplaces.
“Make sure the chimneys are clear of obstructions like bird nests and creosote,” Cherry said.
In cooking holiday meals, there are several distractions that can pull people away from the kitchen.
“Sometimes people will leave the oven or some grease on the stovetop unattended,” Cherry said.
Cherry said at times much of the damage caused by a holiday cooking fire is limited to the meal. However, he said “cooking is one of the top causes of household fires.”
“Your bird or ham may be a little more done than you intended,” Cherry said. “It is important to keep an eye on everything you are cooking, not just during the holiday.”
Cooking is a leading cause of house fires in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, quicker is better. Deep-fried turkey is a fast, delicious and hazardous alternative to the hours-long process of traditional baked and stuffed turkey.
Cherry said people must always check the level of oil in the deep-fryer, the temperature, the flame on the heater, and other factors which could easily lead to fires or serious burns unless families take the proper caution.
Tucumcari Fire Department experts offered the following tips for families deep-frying turkeys this Thanksgiving:
• 8-10 pound turkeys work best for deep-fryers.
• Peanut, canola and sunflower oils are recommended.
• When the turkey is thawed, place it in the empty fryer pot and add water to test the minimum 3-5 inches the oil should be from the top of the pot. Remove the turkey and make sure it dries completely. Drain and dry the pot thoroughly.
• Add oil to the fryer to the level you measured earlier. The correct amount will ensure no hot oil spills over the brim of the fryer pot.
• Heat the oil to 365-375 degrees, which usually takes one hour.
• Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and dried. Partially-frozen turkeys easily trigger spillovers and fires.
• Make sure the wrapper, innards, wire or plastic trusses and pop-up timer are removed from the bird. Cut off the wing tips up to the first joint and remove the tail.
• Stuffed turkeys will not work for deep-frying.
• Once the oil is heated, slowly lower the turkey into the pot. Take extra care to avoid tipping the fryer or spilling the oil.
• Whole turkeys take 3 minutes per pound to cook, so allow a half hour for a 10-pound turkey.
• Keep an eye on the fryer the entire time, guarding against pets or children.
• Carefully remove the turkey to avoid spilling. The oil can be used for multiple birds. Allow it to cool before disposing.
• Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby in case of flames. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.
On the road
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the number of Americans projected to travel this Thanksgiving holiday will increase 11.4 percent compared to last year.
An estimated 42.2 million travelers will travel at least 50 miles away from home, according to AAA projections. In 2009, 37.9 million Americans traveled during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“The obvious thing to do is give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going,” said New Mexico State Police Lt. Cleo Baker. “Then remember to wear your safety belts.”
Baker said drivers experiencing drowsiness should take a break from the road. He said fatigue is often one of the causes of the crashes state police investigate.