Harold Schapelhouman wasn't trying to scare anyone. The Menlo Park fire chief wanted to demonstrate what could go wrong when cooking during the holidays and how to stay safe.
He effectively communicated his concerns through words and actions.
"Cooking is the most common cause of household fires," Schapelhouman said. "It doubles, even triples, during the holiday season."
He said the most common mistakes people make are overfilling the pot and/or not defrosting the turkey.
"What one cup of water can do in a pot of oil could be catastrophic," Schapelhouman said. "I've seen clothing catch on fire too."
Schapelhouman suggests that all homes have working smoke protection, sprinklers, a fire extinguisher and baking soda.
"Not only does baking soda keep your refrigerator smelling nice, it can be spread on top of an oil fire," Schapelhouman said.
The fire chief does not recommend using a deep fay fryer, but does have some advice if you are going to use one.
"Always do it outdoors and away from homes," Schapelhouman said. "Never use it on a wooden deck, in the home or in the garage. Never use water for a grease fire."
In addition, place the fryer on a flat, stable surface and don’t overfill it with cooking oil. Keep children away from the fryer, and use thermometers to gauge oil and food temperatures. After cooking, make sure the oil is completely cool before removing it from the fryer.
Lower and raise food slowly to reduce splatter and prevent burns. Cover bare skin when adding or removing food from the fryer. Make sure to have at least two feet of space between the propane tank and the fryer burner. If the oil begins to smoke, immediately turn the fryer gas supply off and leave the pot uncovered to cool.
Exponent thermo scientist Abid Kemal discussed technical details of the demonstration. Exponent has worked with the Menlo Park Fire Department for a decade on solving fire issues.
Captain Borvelli and fireman Martin participated in the actual demonstration.