November 22, 2012 in City

House fire danger rises with season

Deep-frying, use of heaters cited
By The Spokesman-Review
Be aware

The Spokane Fire Department offers these tips for a safe Thanksgiving:

• If you’re going to deep-fry a turkey, make sure it is thawed completely before dunking it in hot oil.

• Do not put too much oil into the deep fryer or it could overflow onto an open flame, igniting into a fireball.

• Make sure your fireplace flue is clean.

• Keep portable heaters 3 feet away from combustibles and placed on a stable surface.

• When a heater is unattended or not in use, unplug it.

Deep-frying a turkey may be one way to impress the taste buds of holiday guests, but Spokane fire officials warn the method poses a danger.

Thanksgiving “marks the day in the U.S. with the most cooking-related home fires,” the Spokane Fire Department said in a news release Wednesday.

Grease fires are a hazard of deep-frying turkeys, Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said. He recalled holiday incidents where cooks attempted the technique on wood decks and on the balcony of an apartment building.

About 10 years ago, Schaeffer said, a turkey ignited into a fireball after a pot of hot oil overflowed onto open flame.

Spokane Valley firefighters responded, and fortunately the fire only melted the home’s plastic rain gutters.

Turkey fryers “are so high risk for burns or home fires that UL has not certified any unit,” the fire department release said.

Said Schaeffer, “Unfortunately, you can pretty much Google the day after Thanksgiving and read about somebody putting a cold turkey in a fryer,” which increases the risk of oil spitting out of the cooker and onto the open flame.

Turkeys aren’t the only seasonal fire danger, however.

As temperatures dip, homeowners break out space heaters, which can start fires if placed too close to flammable items.

In addition, older homes sometimes are equipped with “knob and tube” wiring systems that can easily overload, Schaeffer said.

Electrical problems are to blame for many structure fires, including one that produced tall flames at a Logan neighborhood apartment last week, Schaeffer said. The building’s electrical system was overloaded by a portable heater in one of the apartments, which started a fire in the attic.

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