In this October 19, 2018 file photo, Townview Elementary Fifth Grade students with teacher Beth Lindsay and principal Ryan Bertelsen look on as the Town of Beloit Fire Department demonstrates the dangers of grease fires ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

BELOIT—Heading into the holiday season, Beloit Fire Department Lt. Jeremy Flanagan said taking a few moments to prepare a safe environment before cooking can remove possible fire hazards.

“As citizens, it’s important to remember to be fire safe. Take a couple of seconds to make that event safer,” Flanagan said. “A big reason why Beloit is so successful is we take the fire prevention angle so seriously.”

According to a July 2020 report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), nationwide data showed cooking mishaps caused roughly 172,9000 structure fires—49% of all reported house fires—between 2014 and 2018.

The findings showed that cooking oil and grease fires were the most common issues, particularly around Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to the NFPA.

Turkey fryers carry some risk and erupt into a full fire within one minute if mishandled, making it important to routinely check meals while cooking and follow safety precautions, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Although the City of Beloit did not see any cooking fires in 2019 on either Thanksgiving or Christmas, Flanagan said it is always advisable to be cautious.

Flanagan offered several tips to follow on cooking safely during the holidays:

  • Thaw the turkey or other meats before cooking.
  • Compensate for the space of a full turkey in a fryer before cooking. Generally, a person should place the turkey dock in before filling with oil to avoid overflowing grease.
  • Clean stove tops and ovens before cooking, in case of leftover grease from previous meals.
  • Check on the food often and set timers or reminders.
  • Remove clutter from countertops to leave plenty of space to work with.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors are functional.
  • Keep doors and windows closed to limit the flow of additional oxygen that could feed a flame.
  • And lastly, don’t leave food in the oven while asleep.

In case of fire in the home, Flanagan said it is important to turn off the heat source immediately and place a lid over the burning object to help suffocate the flame.

Under no circumstances should anyone throw water on an open flame, because doing so could result in severe injury, Flanagan said. It is best to wait for firefighters to arrive to extinguish it.

Each year, the City of Beloit Fire Department is actively involved in local schools to teach fire safety to students by sending instructors to every classroom.

However, due to COVID-19 concerns, this year the local firefighters put together a fire safety video that was shared with teachers and students remotely, Flanagan said.

He added the department can’t wait to resume its usual fire safety demonstrations when it’s safe to do so.

Flanagan reiterated the importance for fire prevention education and following safety tips to keep the community safe overall.