Every Thanksgiving — for that matter every holiday — the Newton Fire/EMS stations are filled with men and women ready to roll if the fire alarm rings. There are no days off from tragedy.
The department still tries to make it a special day.
"A lot of times on Christmas and Thanksgiving the guys try and have their families down and try and make it a family holiday at the firehouse," said Scott Metzler, chief of Newton Fire/EMS.
Thanksgiving is a special time, and for the fire department is a busy time.
According to the Kansas Fire Marshal's Office, cooking is, and has long been, the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries, and according to the records collected from reporting fire departments in Kansas, home cooking fires increase significantly around the times of major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Easter.
"It certainly is busier," Metzler said. "... Thanksgiving week usually goes up for us and we are seeing a bump right now."
According to the state fire marshal, in 2014 Thanksgiving Day was the second busiest cooking fire day across the State of Kansas. Nationally, Thanksgiving was the leading day for home cooking fires, with three times as many fires occurring on this holiday as any average day of the year.
Overall, according to the Annual Report for the Kansas Fire Incident Reporting System, 28 percent of structure fires in 2014 started in the kitchen with a reported $4,263,469 in damage, three deaths, and 28 civilian injuries.
“With Thanksgiving being such a hectic holiday, with all the activity and guests in a home, it can be easy to get distracted and lose track of what is cooking in the oven and on the stovetop,” said Doug Jorgensen, Kansas Fire Marshal. “We encourage all Kansans to take common-sense precautions to prevent a fire tragedy on their holiday.”
The Kansas Fire Marshal also discourages the use of turkey fryers which can lead to devastating burns and the destruction of property due to the large amount and high temperature of oil used. Those who prefer fried turkey should look for grocery stores, specialty food retailers and restaurants that sell deep-fried turkeys.
Metzler is not overly excited about turkey fryers, either. However, he said there has not been a fire in Newton started by a turkey fryer in five years — though the National Fire Protection Agency states there have been as many as 900 a year nationally.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal recommends the following safety tips for cooking on Thanksgiving:
· Keep an eye on what you fry. Always stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food. If you have to leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
· Keep things that can catch fire such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels and curtains away from the cooking area.
· Be alert when cooking. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
· Consider installing an automatic suppression unit attached magnetically to stovetop hoods. Shaped like small tuna cans, these units automatically put out fires when flames reach the hood.
If you have a small (grease) cooking fire and decide to fight the fire:
· On the stovetop, smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
· For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
· If you have any doubt about fighting a small fire: Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number from outside the home.