Thanksgiving is officially here, and that means that millions of Americans will soon be gathering with their loved ones to the simple pleasures that accompany time spent together over a home-cooked meal. For many Americans, a juicy, fried turkey will be the centerpiece of this feast – but too often, carelessness turns a joyous celebration of thanks into a heartbreaking tragedy.

According to data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS):

[A]n estimated 2,000 Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 5 deaths, 25 injuries, and $21 million in property loss. The leading cause of all Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings is, by far, cooking.

It is critically important to remember that while frying a turkey can yield a delicious bird in far less time that the traditional method of baking, there needs to be extra caution taken to avoid disaster.

I must give credit where credit is due. State Farm and William Shatner teamed up to provide an excellent and entertaining video warning about the dangers of carelessly frying a turkey called "Eat, Fry, Love."

Released right in time to capture the attention of Americans planning to fry their Thanksgiving bird, the video features Mr. Shatner offering commentary as only he can: “Fire, metal, oil and turkey are glorious when in harmony. But their power is unrelenting in careless hands.”

I wholeheartedly encourage you to watch the video, which can be found below.

Entertainment aside, the video carries a very important message – one that was even tweeted by the US Department of Homeland Security this week. Please remember to use tremendous caution when preparing your Thanksgiving dinner by following these helpful tips from the US Fire Administration:

  • Use turkey fryers outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other combustible materials.
  • Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
  • Make sure fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer, even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
  • To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed, and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix; water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even [becoming] an explosion hazard.
  • The National Turkey Federation recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.

Along with the rest of the attorneys and staff here at Merlin Law Group, I want to wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving.