Holiday turkeys, trees can cause house fires

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published November 19, 2014

 Excess oil from a turkey fryer burns during a Nov. 11 demonstration by the Rochester Hills Fire Department at the department headquarters on Livernois.

Excess oil from a turkey fryer burns during a Nov. 11 demonstration by the Rochester Hills Fire Department at the department headquarters on Livernois.

Photo by Deb Jacques


ROCHESTER HILLS — Turkey fryers, Christmas trees and candles can lead to injury and destruction if care is not taken, according to fire officials.

During a Nov. 11 fire safety demonstration at the Fire Station Headquarters off Livernois, a partially frozen turkey created 6-foot-high flames when excess oil spilled from the fryer onto a deck construction.

“There are a lot of things that need to go along with turkey frying for it to be safe,” Rochester Hills Fire Chief Sean Canto said.

The National Fire Protection Agency discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that cook with hot oil. According to the NFPA, the amount of hot oil used impacts the speed and severity of burns.

Cooking oil is combustible and can ignite, Canto said. Propane turkey fryers must be used outside and are popular at Thanksgiving, when snow and rain may occur — causing the oil to spatter or turn to steam, delivering serious burns. 

A partially thawed turkey will also cause the oil to splatter. The NFPA encourages those who love fried turkey to purchase it pre-cooked from grocery stores, restaurants and specialty food retailers. New oil-less turkey fryers are now available for use.

According to Deputy Fire Chief Ron Crowell, several Rochester Hills house fires caused by turkey fryers were reported in the past several years, mostly on outdoor decks.

“We had one in a garage a few years ago,” he said.

Simulating an electrical spark from a faulty light string, a decorated Christmas tree caught fire quickly in the safety demonstration — destroying the tree, the nearby furniture, wrapped gifts and carpeting in a living room setting.

Christmas tree fires grow quickly, Canto said, and care should be taken to choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. Two inches of the trunk should be cut before placing the tree in a stand, and the tree must be watered daily.

The tree should be placed at least 3 feet from any heat source, including radiators, candles, heat vents or lights. Use only lights with a label from a recognized testing laboratory, and replace lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections.

No more than three strands of mini light string sets — with a maximum of 50 bulbs — should be used, Canto said. Lit candles should never be used to decorate the tree.

After the holiday, the tree should be taken out of the home and should not be placed against the house or in the garage, Canto said. Many cities have tree recycling programs; learn about Rochester Hills’ at 

According to NFPA officials, one of every three Christmas tree house fires is caused by an electrical failure. A heat source too close to the tree causes one in every six of the fires.

Lit candles should be kept away from holiday decorations and extinguished whenever leaving a room. All light strings should be turned off when leaving the house or going to bed.

The Rochester Hills Fire Department will repeat the Christmas tree fire safety demonstration 7 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Village of Rochester Hills shopping center.

“We’ll be in front of Whole Foods, in the parking lot,” said Rochester Hills Fire Marshall Todd Gary. “We want to let people see it.” 

The Village of Rochester Hills shopping center is located on the northeast corner of Walton Boulevard and Adams Road.