Hillsborough County Fire Rescue promotes kitchen safety this season and year-round

Holidays and food go hand in hand. They bring family and friends together around the table and in the kitchen. Whether slow cooking a family favorite, or basting a turkey in the oven, over the next two months, kitchens and cooks will be busier than ever, but so will Fire Rescue. This is because kitchen catastrophes are a common cause of fires, injuries, and illnesses.

There are four kitchen catastrophes the Hillsborough fire team wants you to avoid this holiday season - cooking fires, burns, lacerations, and foodborne illnesses.

Cooking fires

According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. In fact, Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In Hillsborough County, firefighters have responded to 108 cooking fires so far this year. And over half of home cooking fires start on the stove!


Hot oil or steam, boiling water, scorching pots, pans, and trays are just a few of the potential burn threats while cooking. Distractions and stress only add to the burn potential and the holidays are full of those.

Here are a few tips to decrease your risk:

  • Only cook when you are alert and awake.

  • Create a kid-free zone of at least 3 feet around the stove.

  • Wear short sleeves or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.

  • Turn pot handles AWAY from the edge of the stove.

  • When frying, keep a pan lid or splash guard nearby to prevent grease splatter, and add food slowly to the pan.

For burn first-aid tips, visit the Mayo Clinic online.


Knives are everywhere in the kitchen - drawers, countertops, and in the sink. By following a few tips, these necessary tools can be used much more safely.

  • Secure the cutting board on a damp towel so it doesn't slip.

  • Keep knives clean and sharp. Dull knives do more harm.

  • Always hold the knife in your dominant hand and hold the item tightly with the other hand - curling your fingers in and away from the blade.

  • When trimming or deboning, always cut away from you.

  • Use the right knife for the job.

  • Never leave a knife submerged in water.

  • Don't be afraid to be social in the kitchen! Just stop cutting while you converse!

Foodborne illnesses

Millions of people each year get sick from improperly prepared or bad food. Foodborne illnesses can feel like the flu and can cause more serious health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend these tips to prevent illness:

  • Wash food, hands, counters, and cooking tools before, during, and after cooking.

  • Separate raw foods from cooked or prepared items. Germs can spread from one food to another.

Food needs to get hot and stay hot as heat kills germs. Here are safe temperatures to keep in mind. Using a food thermometer is recommended.

  • Turkey, chicken, duck: 165 F

  • Fish: 145 F

  • Beef, pork, lamb 145 F

  • Ground beef, pork, lamb: 160 F

Put food in the refrigerator within two hours after cooking it or bringing it home from the store. Sooner if it is above 90 degrees outside. Thaw food either in the fridge, in cold water, or in the microwave. Always marinate food in the fridge.

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue plays an important role in public safety. Learn more about the services they offer to help keep residents, businesses, and visitors in Hillsborough County safe.