Ensuring Fire Safety During Thanksgiving: Dos, Don’ts, and Official Guidelines

November 21, 2023

Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, family gatherings, and, of course, a lot of cooking.

However, with the increased activity in the kitchen comes a heightened risk of fire incidents.

In light of this, Fire and Safety Journal Americas brings you a comprehensive guide on ensuring fire safety during the Thanksgiving holiday.

This article includes essential dos and don’ts, examples of past disasters as cautionary tales, and formal advice from U.S. government agencies.

Understanding the risks: Why Thanksgiving is critical for fire safety

Thanksgiving is notorious for being the peak day for home cooking fires in the United States.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than three times as many home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving as on a typical day.

This stark increase is largely due to the extensive cooking activities that often accompany the holiday celebrations.

Do’s and Don’ts: Best Practices for a Safe Thanksgiving

When it comes to fire safety during Thanksgiving, vigilance and preparation are key.

Here’s an expanded list of do’s and don’ts to keep your holiday celebration safe and enjoyable.


  1. Stay in the kitchen while cooking: Always be present, especially when frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you must leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove.
  2. Check your smoke alarms: Ensure they are in working order a week before Thanksgiving to provide enough time for any necessary replacements or repairs.
  3. Keep children and pets away from the cooking area: Maintain a three-foot “kid-free zone” around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is being prepared or carried.
  4. Use timers as a reminder: With multiple dishes being prepared, timers can help you keep track of cooking times and prevent accidents.
  5. Keep your cooking area clean and clutter-free: Avoid leaving potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper towels, and other flammables near the stove.
  6. Dress appropriately: Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.
  7. Practice safe frying: If using a turkey fryer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and use it outdoors on a flat surface, away from any structures or flammable materials.


  1. Leave cooking food unattended: Unattended cooking is the leading cause of kitchen fires.
  2. Douse a grease fire with water: If a small grease fire starts, smother it by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the stove. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  3. Overload electrical outlets: Plugging multiple kitchen appliances into the same outlet can cause an electrical fire.
  4. Leave candles or fireplaces unattended: If you’re using candles for ambiance or a fireplace for warmth, never leave them unattended and keep them away from flammable materials.
  5. Ignore safety around children: Teach children to stay away from hot food, liquids, and the cooking area. Hot steam or splashes from vegetables, gravy, or coffee could cause serious burns.
  6. Forget to turn off kitchen appliances: After the feast, do a thorough check to ensure all appliances are turned off.
  7. Attempt to fight a large fire: If a fire becomes too large to handle with a fire extinguisher, evacuate immediately and call 911.

Remember, most Thanksgiving fires can be prevented with proper attention and safety measures. Keep these tips in mind to ensure a safe and happy holiday for you and your loved ones.

Learning from the Past: Examples of Thanksgiving Fire Disasters

Thanksgiving disasters have served as harsh reminders of the importance of fire safety.

For instance, in 2015, a major fire in Texas was caused by unattended cooking on Thanksgiving, resulting in significant property damage.

These incidents highlight the consequences of negligence and the critical need for vigilance during the holidays.

Official Advice: U.S. Government Guidelines on Fire Safety

The US Fire Administration (USFA) and the NFPA provide several recommendations for Thanksgiving fire safety:

  • Use turkey fryers outdoors: Fryers should be used at a safe distance from buildings and any flammable materials.
  • Wear appropriate clothing: Avoid loose-fitting clothes that might catch fire from the stove.
  • Know how to extinguish a small fire: Keep a fire extinguisher handy and know how to use it.

FSJA Comment

The significance of this topic lies in the amalgamation of awareness, caution, and preparedness.

Thanksgiving, while a time of joy and celebration, brings with it an increased risk of fire-related accidents.

The statistics and examples discussed here are not just numbers or isolated incidents; they represent real threats to safety and well-being.

Emphasizing the dos and don’ts and adhering to official guidelines are not just recommendations but crucial steps in safeguarding our homes and loved ones.

Fire safety is a collective responsibility, and every small action counts towards a safer, happier Thanksgiving.

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