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Prevent Fire & Food Borne Illness + Be COVID Safe!

Chief Jerry Duffield
Chief Jerry Duffield

DeSoto’s Fire Rescue Chief Jerry Duffield and Health Inspector Mamata Bhandari recently offered their advice for keeping Thanksgiving safe during the taping of DeSoto’s weekly news and information program “DeSoto: In-Depth.” We realize that many of you will be working on Thanksgiving-related stories this week and we are providing you with this information so that you have additional materials available to augment your local coverage.

Chief Jerry Duffield, who is also the North Region Director for the Texas Fire Chiefs Association, pointed out that the main safety problem his department encounters on Thanksgiving stems from people who are distracted and doing a lot of cooking and multi-tasking to prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Most of the fires that we have in the kitchen are actually caused by distraction. People either forget something’s on or they get distracted and start doing something else and the next thing you know, especially if you are cooking with grease or on the top of your stove, the next thing you know is that you’ve got a problem.”

Duffield advises holiday chefs to stay attentive to what they are cooking, keep the distractions to a minimum, try to avoid cooking everything at one time, and to keep a fire extinguisher close by, especially if someone is planning to deep fry their turkey for Thanksgiving. 

“The one thing I want to make sure if you’re actually going to do a turkey that way, keep a fire extinguisher near you and just remember, if something does happen, if it does turn over or catch on fire do not use a garden hose and water on that fire! They only thing that you can really do is just get an extinguisher and put it out and if you don’t have that, believe me, sometimes the best answer is doing nothing except just getting away from it and hope it will burn itself out very quickly.”

An added safety note is that a frozen turkey must be completely defrosted before it is submerged in boiling oil or it can create an explosion and fire hazard by shooting flames and spraying burning oil throughout the immediate area.

With the North Texas weather getting downright chilly at times, Chief Duffield is aware that some people will turn to space heaters, and he says that is okay but they should first make sure that the heater they use is UL listed and that it’s kept at a safe distance from anything that could ignite.

“Space heaters are okay to use while you’re awake, while you’re alert, and around them. They’re never to be used overnight while you are sleeping. If you’re going to leave the home or leave the area where they’re on, turn them off!” said Duffield who noted that whether you’re cooking in the kitchen or warming up the living room, people need to be attentive to the task at hand so that they can minimize their risks. 

Mamata Bhandari
Mamata Bhandari

DeSoto Health Inspector Mamata Bhandari also joined in the conversation by talking turkey. She pointed out that fresh turkeys should be used within one or two days of purchase and that frozen turkeys must be properly thawed to be safe. Bhandari noted that the best way to defrost frozen turkeys is to keep them in the refrigerator so that they can thaw over a few days period. Using the microwave on a defrost setting is also a potential option. While some restaurants defrost their turkeys in their sinks with running water, Bhandari cautioned that even with a wrapped turkey the kitchen sinks of home users would need to be thoroughly disinfected before they could continue using their sinks for any other purposes. We recommend visiting the USDA’s website for more specific advice on how to defrost and store a turkey:

Because turkeys are large and don’t always cook evenly, Bhandari recommends getting good food thermometer, “A food thermometer is so important in each household because a turkey is really big inside and when you cook you want to make sure that all of the parts of the turkey reach 165° degrees.”

The final part of this holiday safety discussion involved taking precautions to keep from getting spreading COVID-19. Chief Jerry Duffield echoed other respected health and safety experts when he noted that family gatherings where all participants have been vaccinated and where common-sense precautions are observed should be relatively safe. However, Chief Duffield advised caution when people go into environments where they’re not sure who they are dealing with. Said Duffield, “Just because you’ve vaccinated doesn’t mean you can’t get COVID. You can still get sick, you can still get the virus, hopefully it will be a very mild case, a very manageable case, but you can still be sick. So again, always keep up your guard. Washing your hands, using those universal precautions, social distancing when you have to.” 

Duffield added that people who feel uncomfortable going out shopping at this time of the year and Pandemic should consider wearing nitrile gloves and a N95 mask, which are now commercially available. He noted that shoppers tend to pick up items such as perfume testers or food products and then put them down for the next person. He felt that wearing protective gloves was a great idea and an excellent way to minimize this type of risk.  As for the higher quality N95 masks, Duffield said he favors them because “They protect you against the world. If you’re just wearing a surgical mask you’re being a good person and protecting the world from you.”

Our Thanksgiving safety discussion ran for more than 30 minutes and took place Thursday morning during the taping of the City of DeSoto’s weekly news and information program DeSoto: In-Depth. You can find it on our Facebook Page at:

Please feel free to use any of the footage or quotes in your coverage leading up to the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Finally, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving and thank you for working with us on these stories.

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