With Thanksgiving about a week away, the Moscow Volunteer Fire Department is reminding people to take care when they cook.

On Monday, fire department volunteers demonstrated mistakes that can be made when deep frying a turkey, though organizers of the demonstration noted there is plenty of risk when preparing any large meal.

“With the holidays coming up, people are going to be spending a lot of time in kitchen distracted,” said Zack Ellis, Moscow’s computer systems and digital media specialist. Ellis was filming the demonstration for the city. “We want to remind everybody that we can take kitchen safety for granted because we do it every day.”

During the demonstration at Moscow Fire Station No. 2 on White Avenue, Moscow Fire Marshall Dan Ellinwood said they tried to recreate all the classic mistakes people can make at home.

Ellinwood said those planning to deep fry a turkey should be careful to thaw the turkey completely and pat it down generously both inside and out to remove excess moisture. He said it’s also important to avoid overfilling fryers with oil and to ensure it’s the appropriate temperature — between 300 and 350 degrees.

Breaking one or all of these rules, he said, increases the risk of sending oil erupting from the pot and potentially igniting. This is why it’s also important to do the deep frying in an open, uncovered space outside.

While deep frying accidents are dangerous and dramatic, Ellinwood said the most common cooking-related calls are caused by people leaving the kitchen unattended.

“When people are cooking in the kitchen, they don’t need to leave the kitchen, and when they do is typically when we have fires,” Ellinwood said. “ ‘Unattended’ is the number one issue with cooking and it does seem to go up during the holiday time.”

Ellinwood said beyond cooking-related catastrophes, there are plenty of other risk factors to be wary of as people prepare for the holidays.

He said candle fires are particularly common during the winter months. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the three worst days of the year for home fires caused by candles are Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The agency recommends keeping candles at least a foot from anything flammable and never leaving a burning wick unattended.

For those erecting Christmas trees in their homes, Ellinwood said it’s important to make sure the tree is green and healthy when it’s purchased and to ensure it’s watered daily. He also recommends placing the tree several feet away from any heating source and ensuring string lights are undamaged before wrapping them around the tree. According to FEMA, 1 in 4 winter fires are caused by trees placed too close to a heat source.

There is also a danger with overburdening an outlet with too many lights strung together, though he said it depends on the kind of light.

“With the traditional (incandescent) Christmas lights, there’s a rule of thumb that you don’t string more than three strings together without coming back to the source,” He said. “With LEDs you can string more, so that’s why we always say to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.”

Ellinwood said lights or any other device that demand a lot of power should not be connected to surge protectors or extension cords that can’t handle their power needs

“Any appliance that draws a lot of electricity, like a space heater, needs to go directly into the outlet.” Ellinwood said.

For more information on how to stay safe during the holidays, visit http://www.usfa.fema.gov.

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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