Turkey time: Get to know the dangers of using fryers for the holidays

November 20, 2014 | 10:06 am


Around the holidays in 2002, Richard Hernandez was heating the oil in his Brinkmann turkey fryer he bought from Walmart when it combusted, shooting bright red flames three feet into the air.

“The best way I can explain it is, it was an eruption like out of a volcano,” Hernandez told The Bakersfield Californian in 2004. “It just shot straight up in the air.”

Hernandez then sprayed the fire with an extinguisher, but it only fed the flames. He decided to carry the flaming pot away from the house, but the pot started to implode. The flaming hot oil burned Hernandez’s arms, legs and face.

A year after Hernandez’ incident, Steven Pendergrass, a Kern County Fire Department engineer and former paramedic was frying a turkey using a Brinkmann fryer on Christmas Day. When moisture in the turkey caused oil to boil out of the pot and catch fire, Pendergrass tried to push the pot away from his house, it tipped, spilling oil onto the ground. Pendergrass slipped and fell onto the oil, burning his arms, ankles, back and face.

Both men, represented by Bakersfield personal injury and burn injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles faced several surgeries to repair damaged skin, and dealt with unbearable pain and suffering. Attorney David Cohn helped settle Hernandez’ case against Brinkmann Corp. and Walmart for $2.15 million, while Cohn settled Pendergrass’ case for more than $2 million.

The lawsuits led companies to make changes in the design of the turkey fryers, including adding more legs to make them steadier and prevent tipping, adding automatic turn-off valves if the oil becomes too hot, and other safety fixes.

Still, burn injuries continue all too often with propane-fueled turkey fryers. In fact, more than 4,000 fires occur annually around Thanksgiving alone as people deep fry turkeys, bake pies and cook other foods, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

With the holidays around the corner, the Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, are reminding people about the dangers of turkey fryers, with tips provided by the Bakersfield and Kern County Fire Departments.

  • Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors at a safe distance from structures.
  • Never use fryers under patio covers, on wooden decks or in garages.
  • Use fryers on flat surfaces to reduce the possibility of accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended.
  • Keep children and pets away from the fryer at all times.
  • Do not overfill the fryer. This may result in a “spill-over” of hot oil.
  • Safety goggles and potholders or oven mitts should be used when utilizing the fryer.
  • Turkey must be completely thawed to avoid oil splattering and “boil-over.”
  • Turkey should be free of loose ice and water to avoid oil splattering and “boil-over.”
  • Choose a smaller turkey (10 to 12 pounds) to fry to reduce the potential for accidents.
  • Never use water to extinguish a grease fire; use an all-purpose fire extinguisher.

And if you are injured or burned throughout the holidays, call Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website Chainlaw.com for more information on the following: