Frying a turkey today? Better read this first!

BEAUFORT -- Thanksgiving Day traditionally has been a busy one for local firefighters, as amateur cooks take to their kitchens to prepare holiday favorites -- and sometimes end up cooking their homes instead.

Kitchen fires are the leading cause of fires nationwide, and on Thanksgiving Day, firefighters will respond to three times the normal daily average, according to the National Fire Protection Association.cq

Beaufort County is no exception.

"Cooking is the leading cause of all fires in America, and there are certainly many more people in their kitchens cooking on Thanksgiving, so there is definitely the potential that we'll see a lot more cooking-related fires," said Lee Levesque,cq spokesman for the Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District.

Every year, firefighters nationwide respond to about 5,200 fires on Thanksgiving Day, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Of particular concern to firefighters are those preparing something of a Southern delicacy this holiday season -- deep-fried turkey.

Cooked using large pots of hot cooking oil, fried turkey can be a tasty -- but sometimes dangerous -- meal to prepare.

From 1998 to 2007, there were 138 reported incidents involving turkey fryers, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.cq Those incidents resulted in 38 injuries and nearly $8 million in property damage.

There have been few turkey-fryer fires in the Beaufort area, and the Beaufort Fire Department would like to keep it that way.

"Oil and water do not mix," said Lt. Dan Byrne, Beaufort city fire marshal.cq "Never lower a frozen or partially thawed turkey into a fryer, as this may cause the hot oil to overflow, and never leave the fryer unattended. ... Overflowing oils only take seconds to ignite."

The National Turkey Federationcq recommends thawing a turkey in the refrigerator for about 24 hours for every five pounds of weight.