With a hasty plunge, the frozen turkey on the end of Mark Northrop's pike pole drops into a fryer filled to the brim with bubbling peanut oil.
The fowl sends up a greasy splash as 500-degree oil sloshes onto a wooden platform. It's followed by a cough of fire that nearly matches Northrop's height.
Northrop, deputy fire marshal for Jackson County Fire District 3, was demonstrating what not to do if deep-frying is your preferred method of Thanksgiving bird preparation.
And plenty was wrong in this case: The fryer was filled too high, the oil was too hot, and the turkey was still partially frozen.
"It turns (ice) straight to a gas, to steam," so it tends to make the oil splatter and spit out of the container," Northrop says.
A poor setup like this one can have dire consequences, including vicious burns and fire damage. Between 2012 and 2016, more than 3,600 cooking-related fires were reported in Oregon. They resulted in seven deaths, 200 injuries and more than $33 million in property damage, according to data from the Oregon State Fire Marshal.
Thanksgiving is the peak day for cooking fires in the U.S., Fire District 3 public information officer Ashley Blakely says. The agency has responded to several turkey fryer-related incidents in the district.
"We see a pretty big spike during the holidays," Blakely says.
Prevention starts with basics, including not leaving cooking unattended and making sure the area is clean. In addition, a kid-free zone of at least three feet should be designated around the stove and other areas where hot foods and beverages are prepared, the state fire marshal recommends.
"Just some of those natural things that we probably think about all the time," Blakely says. "But with the holidays, friends and more cooking, we can kind of get distracted."
For those using turkey fryers, make sure they are set up on a solid, nonflammable surface such as concrete or asphalt. The turkey to be prepared should be thawed and patted dry, and the amount of liquid recommended by the turkey fryer directions should be followed.
— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.