Commissioner's Corner: Avoiding Thanksgiving disaster

The Thanksgiving weekend is well known for many things, including football games, busy travel days, and Black Friday deals.

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  • | 5:23 a.m. November 25, 2015
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Fall is in full swing and temperatures are dropping as we head into the Thanksgiving weekend. The Thanksgiving weekend is well known for many things, including football games, busy travel days, and Black Friday deals. Thanksgiving is also associated with a much more dangerous statistic: it is the day with the highest incidence of home fires involving cooking equipment of the year. Home fires pose a significant risk to families. Nearly 494,000 structure fires were reported nationwide last year, or one every 85 seconds. Orange County residents experienced a total of 1,028 structure fires in 2013, the last year for which data was available. Fortunately, structure fire occurrence has been declining significantly; the number of structure fires has dropped by 55 percent since 1977. Common causes of these fires range from faulty appliances, candles, electrical equipment, lighting, and smoking materials. This month, I would like to share some tips on home fire safety you can use to keep you and your guests safe during your Thanksgiving celebrations.

One of the most important steps you can take to keep yourself safe is to ensure your smoke alarms are functioning properly. A working smoke alarm will give you an early warning in the event of a fire so you can get outside quickly. Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of your home. Test your alarms at least monthly. If you do not have smoke detectors, our Fire Rescue Division will purchase and install them in your home free of charge. You can request this serve on our website at

Be sure your home heating equipment is adequately maintained and operated as the weather begins to cool. Keep flammable items including mattresses, bedding, and upholstered furniture at least 3 feet away from equipment such as space heaters. Ensure your space heaters are turned off when leaving a room or going to bed. Have your central heating equipment inspected annually by a qualified professional. Most importantly, do not use your oven to heat your home.

Be safety conscious as you prepare your Thanksgiving dinner. Be sure to stay in your kitchen when cooking on your stovetop as 57 percent of all home-cooking fires involved a range. Do not leave your home while cooking your turkey; nearly 16 percent of home cooking fires involve an oven. Be wary when frying turkeys; traditional do-it-yourself home turkey fryers carry a significant risk of burns and fire. Ask a professional establishment such as a grocery store, specialty food retailer, or restaurant, to prepare your turkey for a small fee. Alternatively, you may consider an “oil-less" turkey fryer. Children in the food preparation area may accidently touch hot cooking surface or overturn containers filled hot foods and liquids, which can cause burns. Have activities such as games, puzzles, or books available to keep children out of the kitchen during your meal preparation. Kids can even get involved in Thanksgiving dinner preparations with recipes that can be done outside the kitchen.

I hope you will keep these tips in mind over the next few weeks. If you have any additional questions about fire safety, please contact Orange County Fire Rescue at 407-836-9000. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about any issue facing Orange County, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff, Edgar Robinson and Lynette Rummel. We can be reached at 407-836-7350 or by email and [email protected] I wish you and your family the best this Thanksgiving season!


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