Even if warnings about rising positive COVID numbers convince people to avoid big Thanksgiving gatherings, the state fire marshal is still beating the drum about the increased risk of fires from holiday cooking. 

There are more house fires on Thanksgiving than any other day, and most are caused by cooking, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said in a release this week.

Last Thanksgiving, firefighters across the state responded to 123 fires that caused several injuries and more than $1.4 million in damages. On that single day, a gas stove fire in a four-unit Boston apartment building caused $2,000 in damage, a stovetop fire in another apartment building in Boston charred the kitchen to the tune of $2,000, and a cooking fire in a home in Worcester – in which one person who tried to put out the fire, as well as a firefighter, were injured – caused $1,500 in damage.

And that gas-fueled turkey fryer that cooks the whole bird in scalding hot oil? Fire prevention experts discourage those outdoor cookers because none of them have a listing from an independent testing lab, such as Underwriters Laboratories. The National Fire Protection Association, based in Quincy, says the turkey fryers that use cooking oil "are not suitable for safe use by even a well-informed and careful consumer.”

So how do you keep your household safe this Thanksgiving?

Ostroskey offered some common sense tips that really apply to cooking any time of the year: Wear short or tight-fitting sleeves when cooking; check to make sure your oven is empty before you turn it on; turn pot handles inward over the stove so you don't accidentally tip the pot over; and never leave the kitchen when boiling, frying or broiling.

If you do have a stovetop fire, Ostroskey says "put a lid on it" and turn off the heat; with an oven or broiler fire keep the oven doors closed and turn off the heat. And, most importantly, if the fire doesn't quickly go out, leave the house and call 911 from outside.

If you didn't check when we moved the clocks back for daylight saving time, make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working.

Ostroskey said there have been 704 Thanksgiving Day fires in the state over the last five years. Of those, cooking caused 86% of them. That's a lot of burned turkeys, charred potatoes and lives put at risk, unnecessarily. 

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