November 24, 2022By Lance Baily

Simulated Turkey Fires Help Responders Prepare for Thanksgiving Dangers

Simulation can provide instruction on how to perform skills that can be pivotal in avoiding medical emergencies. During the holiday season and specifically on Thanksgiving Day, meal preparation can pose a serious risk if mistakes or errors in judgment are made. According to NFIRS and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), for each year from 2017 to 2019, an estimated average of 2,300 residential building fires were reported to fire departments in the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day. These fires reportedly caused an estimated annual average of five deaths, 25 injuries, and $26 million in property loss. To help avoid these outcomes, this article serves as a public service announcement and shares tips and resources to mitigate risk.

First and foremost, those who plan to cook this holiday season must be aware that oil and water DO NOT MIX! Further, everyone must understand that they cannot put out an oil-based fire with water, as this ultimately distributes the oil and flames even more. Additionally, simulated turkey fire demonstrations are often conducted by fire departments and emergency personnel to demonstrate just how dangerous cooking with oil can be. This simulation methodology can be utilized to demonstrate potential dangers associated with fires and to train both firefighters and civilians on how to address these emergencies.

By fully understanding the risks involves and methods to mitigate them, those cooking this holiday season can better ensure a safe outcome for themselves and all of their guests. From all of us at, we hope all simulationists and their families enjoy Thanksgiving responsibly, and that they will consider sharing this important Public Service Announcement (PSA).

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In general, the NFPA discourages the use of outdoor, gas-fueled turkey fryers, because they can “lead to devastating burns, destruction of property, and other injuries.” The association states that Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the organization that certifies safe products, does not certify these types of fryers with its UL label. Both organizations discourage the use of open-flame fryers due to the following:

  • Turkey fryers tip easily, spilling their contents, and causing oil to ignite.
  • Overfilling the fryer is common. The oil spills out of the pot when the turkey is placed in the fryer, engulfing the whole unit in flames.
  • With no thermostat controls, the oil is prone to overheating at the combustion point.
  • The handles and lid get extremely hot, which can cause severe burns.
  • Since the unit is designed for outdoor use, rain or snow can fall on the unit, splattering the oil and converting the water to scalding steam.

NFPA Safety Tips

The NFPA issues several recommendations that help keep people safe while they prepare to cook this holiday season. For example, the organization emphasizes that anyone cooking, especially on the stovetop, should remain in the kitchen so that they can keep an eye on the food. The organization also recommends that those preparing meals should stay at home when cooking the turkey, and check on the process frequently. They should be sure that smoke alarms are working, and test them by pushing the test button.

  • Here are additional NFPA tips and recommendations for safe cooking:
  • Never leave the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop. Some types of cooking, especially those that involve frying or sautéing with oil, need continuous attention.
  • When cooking a turkey, stay in your home and check on it regularly.
  • Make use of timers to keep track of cooking times, particularly for foods that require longer cook times.
  • Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, and towels at least three feet away from the cooking area.
  • Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that could come in contact with a heat source.
  • Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on the fire.

For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Only open the door once you’re confident the fire is completely out, standing to the side as you do. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the fire department for assistance.
Keep children at least three feet away from the stove. Kids should also stay away from hot foods and liquids, as steam or splash from these items could cause severe burns.

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If children are nearby when the meal is being prepared, people should make sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach. Other best practices include keeping matches, utility lighters, knives, hot foods, and liquids out of children’s reach. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy, or coffee can cause serious burns as well. Ultimately, children should be kept three feet away from the stove and away from any lit candles.

Additional Safety Tips

Boise Fire Department Turkey Fryer Safety Tips: The Boise Fire Department, NFPA, and Underwriters Laboratories discourage the use of gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil. These turkey fryers use a substantial quantity of cooking oil at high temperatures, and units currently available for home use pose a significant danger that hot oil will be released at some point during the cooking process. The use of turkey fryers by consumers can lead to devastating burns, other injuries, and the destruction of property. This video provides several tips to increase safety measures while frying a turkey.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Turkey Fryer Fire: Since 2002, there has been more than 168 turkey-fryer-related fire, burn, explosion, or CO poisoning incidents, including 672 injuries and $8 million in property damage. This video demonstrates the danger and damage that can be caused by incorrectly frying a turkey.

Other turkey fire simulator videos from across the United States:

Turkey Fryer Simulation in the News

Thanksgiving 2021: Firefighters demonstrate dangers of deep frying turkey: This FOX10 article shares how the Gulfport Fire Department demonstrated the safety risks of deep-frying a turkey, which is the method of cooking the bird by dropping it into the hot oil. The footage, published by the City of Gulfport Mayor’s Office, shows a firefighter putting a turkey into the oil before it is immediately engulfed in flames. According to the article, Fire Chief Billy Kelley said the demonstration showed “what not to do” and reminded people to completely thaw and dry their turkeys before cooking.

Frying a turkey this year? Here’s how to stay safe: According to CBS 4WWL, A column of flames erupted from a turkey fryer in Slidell, radiating waves of heat toward the people watching. But firefighters were already on the scene because the fireball was part of a planned demonstration by the St. Tammany Fire Department. In a parking lot outside the Central Fire Station, firefighter T.J. McMillan lowered a frozen turkey into the fryer and flame erupted as excess oil boiled out of the pot and ignited.

VIDEO: Dangers of improperly deep-frying a turkey on Thanksgiving: This ABC 15 article explains how deep-frying a turkey has become a popular method for cooking turkeys can be dangerous because fryers can easily tip over and spill scalding-hot oil. They can also cause fires if oil hits the burner or flame, among other hazards. Phoenix Fire Department shows how to safely fry a turkey and what can happen if you improperly use an oil fryer to cook a turkey:

Never deep-fry a frozen turkey, experts warn. The result? A dangerous eruption of flames: According to USA Today, Meredith Carothers, a food safety expert with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, called deep-frying a turkey a “cool way” of preparing a Thanksgiving classic that “has gained a lot of popularity over the years.” But she warned that, if your family wants to deep-fry a turkey, there are some important safety tips you should know to avoid a holiday disaster.

Nashville firefighters warn of turkey frying dangers: Nashville firefighters are warning cooks about the dangers of frying a turkey improperly over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is a peak day for home cooking fires. Fire officials remind people to always fry a turkey outside and away from any overhangs or awnings.

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