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November 24, 2006

Stop, Drop, and Roll
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:28 PM * 142 comments

So, how did I spend my Thanksgiving afternoon?

I and my partner, Mandie, spent it at a fire standby. Any time there’s a structure fire an ambulance gets dispatched to stand by in case someone is injured — either a person trapped in a house, or a firefighter. Nasty scenes, fires.

We’re the Medical Branch, working for the Incident Commander. (See Wheel, Re-invention of for more on ICS.) When we aren’t fixing up the injured (thankfully injuries aren’t that common), we run the rehab zone. That means, as the firefighters come out from working on the fire, pretty much when the bells ring on their air packs, they come over to us. We give ‘em a bottle of water and check their vital signs: heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, pulse oximetry. After they’ve cooled down for a bit, they suit up and go back in.

So, there we were. The smoke was visible from about half a mile away (nice blue-sky clear New Hampshire afternoon). When we arrived we found a garage that had pretty-much collapsed. It looked like a big bonfire. I wish I’d taken a camera with me to show you.

The proximate cause of the fire? A turkey fryer. I was thinking of writing this post the day before Thanksgiving, and it sure would have been timely, ya know?

Our friends at the Consumer Product Safety Commission have these recommendations for using turkey fryers:

  • Keep fryer in FULL VIEW while burner is on.
  • Place fryer in an open area AWAY from all walls, fences, or other structures.
  • Never use IN, ON, or UNDER a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, or any structure that can catch fire.
  • Raise and lower food SLOWLY to reduce splatter and avoid burns.
  • COVER bare skin when adding or removing food.
  • Check the oil temperature frequently.
  • If oil begins to smoke, immediately turn gas supply OFF.
  • If a fire occurs, immediately call 911. DO NOT attempt to extinguish fire with water.
For safest operation, CPSC staff recommends that consumers follow these guidelines as they prepare to use a turkey fryer:
  • Make sure there is at least 2 feet of space between the liquid propane tank and fryer burner.
  • Place the liquid propane gas tank and fryer so that any wind blows the heat of the fryer away from the gas tank.
  • Center the pot over the burner on the cooker.
  • Completely thaw (USDA says 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds) and dry turkey before cooking. Partially frozen and/or wet turkeys can produce excessive hot oil splatter when added to the oil.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the proper amount of oil to add. If those are not available:
    • Place turkey in pot
    • Fill with water until the turkey is covered by about 1/2 inch of water
    • Remove and dry turkey
    • Mark water level. Dump water, dry the pot, and fill with oil to the marked level.

Try not to catch yourself on fire, guys.

If you do happen to catch on fire, remember: Stop, drop, and roll. What that does for you: You are no longer fanning the flames, you aren’t drawing a lot of air (and hot gasses, and smoke) into your lungs, and you’ve got a chance of putting out the fire. (I promise you can’t run fast enough to extinguish flames.) If you see someone else on fire and running, yell at them to stop, drop, and roll. A heavy wool blanket is good for putting out flaming people.

Burns come in three categories: Superficial, partial thickness, and full thickness. (The old names for those are first degree, second degree, and third degree. We don’t use that terminology any more.)

The “thickness” being spoken of is the thickness of the skin. Your skin is the largest organ in your body. For our purposes here it has three functions: It provides thermal regulation, it protects against bacteria, and it’s water-tight, which keeps the fluids inside you.

A superficial burn only affects the top layer of the epidermis. This is like a sunburn. It’s painful, but (unless it’s extensive) not too serious. The surface of the skin is dry and reddened. The burn is painful and sensitive to touch.

A partial-thickness burn involves the epidermis and the dermis. These are generally moist due to the loss of waterproofing. In a superficial partial-thickness burn, thin-walled blisters form. The skin is reddened, and area blanches when pressed, but regains color rapidly. In deeper partial-thickness burns the skin is red or waxy, and moist, but may not blister. It still blanches when pressed, but recolors only slowly or not at all. Partial-thickness burns are intensely painful.

A full-thickness burn extends all the way through the dermis and may affect underlying organs. These injuries can appear to be blackened, waxy, or leathery. Capillary refill is absent, and the surface is dry. Oddly enough, full-thickness burns aren’t painful; the nerves are destroyed. Areas of partial-thickness burns and superficial burns surrounding the full-thickness burn are, however, exquisitely painful.

Burns to the hands and feet, to the face (and especially the airway) , that involve the groin or buttocks, are over a major joint, or are circumferential (all the way around a limb or your chest), raise the seriousness of the injury. Burns to those areas, or to persons under five years old or over 65 years old, raise the seriousness one level. A burn plus another injury (e.g. fracture, laceration) raises the seriousness of the burn one level. You go from minor to serious, or from serious to critical. If your burn started out critical, you’re in trouble anyway.

First aid for burns: First, stop the burning process. Copious water is usually the best method. Then, loosely wrap the affected area in sterile, dry bandages. Don’t pull off anything that’s charred to the skin. Don’t break blisters. (If someone’s wearing a watch or a ring — cut it off. The injured area will swell and circulation may be lost.)

Start looking for pulse points beyond the burned area. If you find a pulse, mark it with a Sharpie marker. That’s good meat. Later on, when the burned areas start to swell, you may lose those pulses. Knowing that they were there, and where they were, will help your ED doctors.

Speaking of swelling — that’s why circumferential burns are so dangerous. They can form a sort of tourniquet and stop circulation in a limb, or stop the chest from expanding in order to breath.

You aren’t going to put on wet dressings, because that could induce hypothermia. You are going to use sterile dressings because the skin’s ability to protect against bacteria is gone. You don’t want to use creams or ointments, because they can hold in the heat, and because the first thing we’re going to have to do in the ED is remove them — and that hurts.

Like anything else, treat for shock. Start treating for shock before shock develops — after you’ve gone into shock getting back can be tough. (To treat for shock — wrap the patient in blankets for warmth, lay him on his back with his feet elevated. Provide oxygen if you have it.) While bacteria aren’t really your concern on-scene, do your best to keep the wound clean. That’ll simplify things down the road. Of more immediate concern are hypothermia and dehydration. Losing skin compromises the body’s ability to maintain heat and water.

If you note charring, blistering, or blanching around the nose or mouth, or singed nose-hair, or sooty phlegm, expect airway problems. The air passages will swell and the situation will get dire fast. That person needs to be in a hospital (or, better, burn center), right now.

Any full-thickness burn is severe. Any partial-thickness burn greater than three inches in diameter is severe.

As long as we’re talking about fires and such, direct burns aren’t the only way they can kill you. Carbon monoxide, or cyanide gas, for example, can nail you long before the flames reach you.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that binds more firmly to hemoglobin than oxygen does. Carbon monoxide is created by incomplete combustion. Hydrogen cyanide, a byproduct of combustion of some materials, destroys the ability of the mitochondria in your cells to function. This tends to paralyse the muscles, including heart and diaphragm. Small concentrations of hydrogen cyanide reaching the brain can cause unconsiousness.

What do you want to do about those? Get smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. If you heat or cook with gas, add an explosive gas detector to your home. (You can get combined CO/explosive gas detectors). Test them regularly; change the batteries every six months. (If your alarms keep going off for no apparent reason, find out why. Don’t just take the battery out of the alarm.)

As long as we’re here, shall we talk about fires in general?

There are four classes of fires. Class-A is combustible solids (like wood or paper). It’s characterized by white smoke and red flames. You extinguish ‘em with solid stream or high-velocity fog water. Class-B is combustible liquids like oil. It’s characterized by orange flames and black smoke. You extinquish it with low-velocity fog or foam. Class-C is electrical fres. It’s characterized by thin bluish smoke and a smell of ozone. It’s extinguished with dry chemical or carbon dioxide. Class-D is combustible metals like magnesium. It’s characterized by brilliant white light. It’s extinguished with dry powder (don’t use water — water just makes it angry).

Pick extinguishers for your home rated for the kinds of fires you’re likely to see. If you have a dry chemical extinguisher, go around and turn it upside down once a month. That’ll keep the powder loose, so when you need it the chemical isn’t all caked in the bottom of the cylinder. If you’re going to extinguish a fire yourself, first, don’t let the fire get between you and the door. Next, test the extinguisher before you get close to the fire. Then, use low sweeping motions of the extinguisher aimed at the base of the flame. After the fire is out, set a reflash watch. Call your friends at 9-1-1. They want to hear from you. (Send someone to call, or call yourself, before you go attack the fire.)

Copyright © 2006 by James D. Macdonald

I am not a physician. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. This post is presented for entertainment purposes only. Nothing here is meant to be advice for your particular condition or situation.

Creative Commons License
Stop, Drop, and Roll by James D. Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Comments on Stop, Drop, and Roll:
#1 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 02:35 AM:

A small, but significant, addition: a fire extinguisher company in the UK used to sell on the slogan that the first ten minutes of the fire was your problem, not the Fire Brigade's. And they emphasized getting the correct type of fire extinguisher, and getting one that is big enough.

Some places, you'll have a lot more than ten minutes to wait.

So, don't rely on just one fire extinguisher. Get them checked every year. And make sure they're big enough for the job.

And do you have one in your car? Can you get at it?

#2 ::: Elusis ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 02:47 AM:

Alton Brown did an episode of "Good Eats" on turkey frying this year. It contains a very simple, effective, and frightening demonstration of how a turkey with ice or water still inside can cause a fryer to boil over, catch the oil on fire, and turn into a shooting pillar of flame ten to twelve feet high that just will not go out, all in about five seconds.

It also contains instructions for building a turkey derrick, for safer frying, and many, many explicit admonitions about where and how to do so (and their converse warnings).

A tidbit that interested me: the UL has never certified a turkey fryer, due to concerns about safety.

#3 ::: Lara ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 03:38 AM:

HOW CREEPY. Just as I was reading this (at my parent's), the garage went up in flames & a bunch of firemen descended upon the house.

Luckily they were just down the alley, putting out another fire.

Not due to turkey-frying, but to kids setting garbage cans on fire, the police said? Possibly?

Bizarre. And more bizarrely I'm posting about it on the internets because what else can I do? Mleh.

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 09:53 AM:

Jim, you forgot the most important rule for using a turkey fryer: DON'T.

OK, that's not one of those rules. I just can't believe anyone would do something so dangerous as deep frying a turkey.

And I fry naked. I'm kind of a nut that way.

#6 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:06 AM:

Jim --- I remember servicing purple K extinguishers back in the 80s. Are they still using those for metal fires?

Dave B. --- eep! So many potential booms, so few boom shelters ...

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:07 AM:

Xopher @5

And I fry naked. I'm kind of a nut that way.

My husband claims he learned to cook bacon from a panel comment by Joe Haldeman - always cook it naked, because then you cook it slowly enough that it doesn't spatter. Sadly, since our kitchen doesn't have curtains, he doesn't currently follow this advice these days.

On-topic, I've been severely burned, about 15 years ago now, in Spain. 15% of my skin surface (basically, about half of each leg, plus some groin and one hand) partial thickness burns from an exploding bottle of stove fuel (mercifully, a plastic bottle, so no shrapnel). It was a half hour before I got any form of treatment or pain relief. It was worse than childbirth.

I learned a lot in that half hour, including:

  • how to deal with pain that simply will not go away

  • how to recognise shock from the inside

  • that my mediocre Spanish becomes very, very good in times of stress

  • not to do it again

Listen to Uncle Jim, kids. I got off lightly, with 8 days in the hospital and less leg shaving to do for the rest of my life. But I nearly lost a tendon and limped for life, and it was a few years before I didn't have dreams that started with that awful whump.

#8 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:39 AM:

This reminds me that I need to check my fire extinguisher, which I'll do as soon as I get home. Doubly important, since it's now fireplace season.

The Alton Brown turkey method really does seem like a relatively safe way to fry a bird, including both the derrick and staring out at 250 degrees and raising to 350 once the bird is in the oil.

As to why anyone would ever fry a turkey - well my cousins in Florida did it one year and it was really good. Not quite as good as when the did the bird in the smoker, but still, really darn good.

My only burn experiences are solar in nature (once resulting in hospitalization from extensive 2nd degree burns - long story) so I really try to keep myself away from open flames. I'll leave frying manouvers involving gallons of oil to professionals. Although I suppose one could butcher a small turkey and fry the parts (not all at once) more safely.

#9 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:48 AM:

Unless you use a liquid propane gas tank to cook all your food, all the time, using one to cook a heavy, ungainly piece of meat once a year strikes me as nuts.

But maybe that's just me...

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 11:15 AM:

Reminds me of the time the MythBusters fired a frozen turkey out of their home-made air-pressure cannon.

#11 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 11:35 AM:

Of course, the predecessor of deep fried turkey has to be duck confit - "simmer" your cut up bird in enough pork fat to cover it, salt lightly, and let cool until the fat sets up. It will keep for a week without refrigeration, and darned near a month with. I think of it as "canning in fat". And it comes out so tender and fatty :-)

#12 ::: Berry ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 11:42 AM:

Here's an illustration of what happens if you dump water into a fryer. This movie is a chip-pan fire, not a turkey-fryer, but the idea is the same: big pot of hot oil over a fire. Whoosh!

#13 ::: Anaea ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 12:44 PM:

My grandmother has instilled in me what I think is the best advice for dealing with cooking and burns ever. The one bit I don't see mentioned already is:

If you cook, have an aloe plant. Cut off a peice and rub it on a superficial burn before it starts to bother you and, depending on the burn, it might not at all but will certainly be less of an annoyance.

Since I still haven't gotten used to the idea that on a gas stove (I grew up with electric) metal bowls near the stove get very hot, my plant has saved various bits of my fingers from unpleasantness several times. It's more folk-remedy style than admonitions to have a fire extinguisher, but it's handy.

#14 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 01:10 PM:

Anaea @ 13 - Hmmm. I grew up with a gas stove and now have electric and am continually amazed at the amount of radiant heat the burners produce. I had to move my blender across the room because its casing got too hot on the counter about 18" from the burner.

I'd really like to have a stove with both gas and electric burners. Gas is great because it's so responsive. Electric is good because nothing beats the giant electric element for boiling water for pasta.

#15 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 01:15 PM:

(If someone’s wearing a watch or a ring — cut it off. The injured area will swell and circulation may be lost.)

Important safety note: tungsten carbide rings and watches cannot be cut. You waste valuable time trying to cut these. They must be cracked off. Get a pair of vise grips. Set them to 1mm smaller than the diameter of the ring--no more than that, or you risk hurting the finger in the ring. Apply pressure and crack off the ring.

If you wear a tungsten carbide ring, make sure medical personnel are told how to remove it. Many EMS and ER staff don't know--they're taught that a ring cutter is the tool for the job. A ring cutter won't even scratch TC. You may consider donating a pair of vise grips and instructions on removing TC to your local hospital.

#16 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 01:19 PM:

"Electric is good because nothing beats the giant electric element for boiling water for pasta."

Well, yeah, but allow an extra half-hour for the water to boil if you've got a gallon or so.

My sister has gas, I've got electric. She always undercalculates cooking times on our range when she's over here.

How does one determine whether one's fire extinguisher is still in working order? At most offices I've worked at we had AAA Fire come in and check every six months, but I don't think those services cater to residences.

#17 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 01:39 PM:

Glad they changed the burn classifications; the new ones are obvious to me (I already knew the descriptions, roughly, enough for my own purposes), whereas I always had trouble remembering which order the numbers went in. Now I don't have to. And if I say "part-way" instead of "partial thickness", say, I'm not so likely to confuse the expert as if I use the numbers wrong.

I've never been around turkey frying (haven't even noticed neighbors doing it), though I'm interested. But I'd figured out for myself that outdoors, on a non-flammable surface, not underneath anything were all important points. And that the worst case potential was completely appalling (the full *worst case* includes blowing up the propane tank).

I saw a couple of Kidde fire extinguishers in boxes at Target the other day that *didn't give their classifications* (at least on the box; I didn't open them and look at the real thing). Gack!

Last I checked, getting a home extinguisher "tested" costs more than replacing it (I'm using 1A 10BC units, a bit under 2 feet tall, metal tanks). But mine need replacement, especially now that you've pointed out the issue of powder clumping.

Is the stuff in extinguishers like that environmentally nasty? I'm inclined to build a small fire in a safe place outside and try out the extinguishers I'm retiring, since I've never discharged a fire extinguisher, and they say practice helps with pretty much anything. But I don't want to leave a pile of nasty stuff in my yard.

Oh, and one old halon unit for the room with all the computers (fine powders being so nasty to various things; the disk drives have filters, but they'd probably clog nearly immediately, making the data unrecoverable except at an expensive place that takes the drive apart).

#18 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 01:42 PM:

#16: last I checked, the total heat out put of the big burners on electric stoves was much higher than the total heat output of the big burners on home gas stoves (commercial gas ranges can be another matter). The time to boil a given amount of water is lower on the electric, generally. (Not reliably true of various specialty or old stoves).

They're also much more controllable at low heats.

And I *hate hate HATE* having to bend over every time I adjust the heat level on a gas burner (on all the gas stoves I've worked with, actually watching is the only way to be sure you've made any change, a change in the direction you wanted, a change of about the size you wanted; and that the flame didn't go out, and on most of the gas stoves I've used the gas would continue to flow if that happened).

Gas responds faster, but when I'm cooking in any heavy pan, especially cast iron, I have to plan ahead *anyway*, so I don't see that as much of a big deal.

#19 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 02:00 PM:

As always, thanks for the information and reminders to be on top of things from a fire safety point of view.

I had a kick in the butt experience a week or so ago. My 11 year old daughter is a synchronized swimmer and practices a few times a week at a YWCA, my 8 year old son and I wait in a lounge near the gym when she's practicing. This last time the fire alarms went off and within moments staff came through to say this wasn't a drill, no one pulled an alarm and start evacuating. This place is in a city and it was filled with kids attending various after school programs. They had all of us out and accounted for in minutes. I was going crazy because suddenly I realized that there could be something really bad happening and I couldn't be with my daughter. She was in the pool when this happened with the rest of the team. I can't tell you how much I wanted to hand Noah to someone and go in and get her and I just didn't. I just kept telling myself that the same plans in place that got all the other kids in groups and accounted for across the street, were in place for the kids in the pool. It turned out to be a minor problem, and it turned out that there was indeed a plan for the kids in the pool. Still, every mommmy bone in my body was pulling me to go into that building and look for her. I don't know what I would have done if there were visible flames or explosions-I'd like to think I would trust the professionals, but boy that wasn't my gut instinct.

#20 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 02:01 PM:

I still remember, at the first place I worked, the fire-extinguisher class put on by the local FD, after there had been a fire at work - I wasn't there that day, so I don't know any of the details. A three-foot ring with gasoline, ignited (carefully) so that the proper use of the extinguisher could be demonstrated. [Someone in the back of the crowd (don't know who, and it wasn't me) accompanied it by whistling 'Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight'.]

#21 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 02:14 PM:

When in the navy, I took almost every firefighting school they had, some of them voluntarily, but the image that remains ms firmly seared into my brain was the first school, in boot camp.

They took us down to an empty zeppelin hangar at a nearby base, and had us sit around the walls inside the building. For those who've never been inside a zeppelin hangar, they are freaking enormous structures - you could easily play baseball inside one, with room left for spectators. In the center of the building was a deep-fat fryer - the sort used in fast food restaurants, or shipboard.

After we'd all gotten settled, a guy in a silver firefighting suit came out and told us we'd be seeing a demonstration of why we were being trained (and this was right after we all saw a film of the Forrestal disaster). He then put his hood on, took a 20-foot pole, and dumped a half-cup of water into the pre-heated fryer.

100 feet away, I lost my eyebrows. They were singed off.

Imagine that reaction in a confined space where the fire cannot go straight up, then wonder why anyone would want to deep-fry anything inside their house.

#22 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 02:46 PM:

I wonder what proportion of the readership got, say, 1/3 of the way through this posting and then yelled "AAUUUGH! I believe you! Stop! Stop!" and then skipped to the end. Like me.

Anyway, here are my doctor friend's "health tips gleaned from an ER rotation":

1. Don't get shot.
2. Don't get burned.
3. Don't get into a car crash.

#23 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 03:10 PM:

Carl @#21, my boot camp experience wasn't that extreme, but it was pretty memorable. It was a small chamber filled with black black smoke, no masks. Stay low and crawl, we were admonished.

Later I was on two-week Reserve training and the Navy had run out of travel funds, so we spent part of our time painting the interior of the fire training facility at the Reserve Center in Tucson. Creativity was encouraged, since it would all be burnt off eventually.

#24 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 03:10 PM:

How does one determine whether one's fire extinguisher is still in working order?

Linkmeister, I believe -- someone should correct me if I am mistaken -- that one can take a fire extinguisher over to the local fire station, and the firefighters will check it.

#25 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 03:39 PM:

The firefighters around here are happy to check your fire extinguishers. They're also happy to check your smoke alarms (there's spray-can test-stuff that they use), and check your home for fire safety.

They don't want anyone to have a house fire and they don't want anyone to get hurt. Prevention beats firefighting.


Speaking of carbon monoxide -- there are folks who've had low levels of carbon monoxide in their homes for years. Not enough to kill 'em, but enough to make 'em chronically sick. The early symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the symptoms of a low-level viral infection.

Note about CO: the classic "cherry red lips" is a very late sign. If you have someone with that, the person is already in deep trouble.

Carbon monoxide sends about 40,000 people to the ER every year in the USA. If you have an attached garage, or any flame source in your house, get a carbon monoxide detector. You can get one for twenty bucks.

Smoke detectors go without saying.

#26 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 03:50 PM:

Everyone here knows the memory trick for changing your smoke alarm batteries, right?

Change them when you change your clocks.

#27 ::: Sternel ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 04:34 PM:

Jim, as the daughter of a lifelong volunteer fire fighter/arson detective, thank you.

Another note to everyone reading this: if you recharge any electronic equipment (and who doesn't), make sure your phone/mp3 player/laptop/whatever is on a solid surface and that it has plenty of airflow around it. You'd be amazed at the number of people who burn down their bedrooms because they accidentally made their plugged-in cell phone *into* the bed, or put a basket of laundry on top of a laptop, for example.

#28 ::: Eve ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 07:53 PM:

Unless you use a liquid propane gas tank to cook all your food, all the time, using one to cook a heavy, ungainly piece of meat once a year strikes me as nuts.

A friend explained to me the other day that Thanksgiving cooking is like New Year's Eve drinking - amateur's night. People who hardly do it at all for 364 days a year decide to really push the boat out on that one day, and the inevitable result is carnage born of inexperience.

#29 ::: Anaea ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 08:04 PM:

Larry Brennan @14, the stove I have now gets very, very hot any time I turn on just a single element. I accidentally overcooked a cream sauce once by moving the pot to the spare element while the other two and the oven were on. I've had to create safe places to put hot pots and retrain myself so that I use them instead of unused elements.

#30 ::: Adam Ek ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 08:08 PM:

I've known for quite awhile that I never want to fry a turkey. Then last week Good Eats convinced Ailsa too.

If you want to try an unconventional and fast way to cook a turkey, try Trashcan Turkey.


1 Turkey

1 metal trashcan. You can use it many times for turkey, but never use it for anything else. Especially don't use it for trash.

Heavy duty oven mitts or fireproof gloves.

20 lbs of charcoal. 10 pounds for seasoning the trashcan. 10 pounds for the turkey.

Turkey stick. see below.

Choose your location. It needs to be relatively flat and nothing combustible nearby. Almost anyplace where you could burn a campfire will do. However, there must be enough room for the trashcan to rest upside down and the ground must be soft enough to pound the turkey stick in.

Season the Trash Can

Take your new, never used, metal trashcan. Turn it upside down. Pour a ten pound bag of charcoal over it. Take all of the charcoal that spills off the top and arrange it evenly around the bottom, heaped as high as possible around the bottom.

Light the charcoal. Some people like hardwood charcoal chunks for grilling. That is great for grilling, but save it for grilling. For trashcan turkey use the cheapest briquets you can find. Either easy lighting or traditional briquets and use lighter fluid. Trashcan turkey never sees the charcoal fumes. You are heating up the trashcan. Radiant heat and convection from the hot trashcan is what will cook the turkey.

When the charcoal burns out you have seasoned your trashcan. Any fumes that the galvanized metal might produce are now outgassed. You won't need to season this trashcan ever again.

Cook the turkey.

Sorry, there is no stuffing with this approach. Take a plain thawed turkey. Don't put any sugary basting on the outside. It will most likely burn.

Pound your turkey stick in the ground. Traditionally a whittled and cleaned tree branch with a Y. The bottom gets pounded into the ground. The branch of the Y holds the turkey up off the ground, but lower than the height of the trashcan.

Place aluminum foil over the ground. Cover the full area where the trashcan will go. The point is to reflect heat back up to the bird.

Option 1: You can also create a aluminum shape kind of like a bundt pan around the turkey stick. This will catch drippings that can be used for gravy.

Option 2: You can wrap potatoes in foil and place them on the ground within the area of the trash can. Great baked potatoes.

Put the turkey on the turkey stick. Make sure that it does not touch the ground, and that it will not touch the trashcan. Adjust turkey stick if necessary.

Put the trashcan on top of the turkey.

Arrange and light charcoal as before.

Precisely two hours after the charcoal was started. Remove the trashcan. This is the most dangerous part of the procedure. You need some serious fireproof gloves or some kind of tool that you can use to lift and move the trashcan from a distance.

Remove the turkey from the turkey stick and put it on the platter.



#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 08:11 PM:

Xopher #5: That's the way to fry bacon. I've seen it recommended by quite a few people, and done it myself (not lately, though, on account of having a live-in mother-in-law).

#32 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 08:17 PM:

Don #22: Unless you're a stuntman. In those cases, you can do all three in one day!

Link #23: That was the basic course. The more advanced, the more interesting! (The engine room firefighting course was terrifying and grueling, and I was astonished at the guys who'd come out of a room where the smoke was so thick you couldn't see a foot, and light up a cigarette.)

James #25: Spray stuff? That's no fun! My cooking alone suffices for a test every now and then, though steam from the shower also occasionally sets it off.

Abi #26: I at first read that as "socks" not "clocks", and thought "Not everyone was in the Marines!" :)

#33 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 08:19 PM:

Carbon monoxide can leak into your car. If you start feeling like crap after driving about ten-fifteen minutes, get out of the car, then have it towed to a garage. This I know from direct experience.

#34 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 09:03 PM:

If I want fried turkey, I'm buying one from Popeye's.

#35 ::: Jackmormon ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 09:33 PM:

Thanks for the advice about smoke detectors. I've recently moved into a new place, and every time I've baked bread, the detector has gone off. Since I have a tetchy, nosy landlady two floors down, I was focused more on getting the damn thing to stop screaming, but you've given me reason to take it more seriously.

As a renter--worse, a subletter--I would be a little nervous about inviting the fire department in. Is there any way of asking them in for advice without its being all kinds of official and, well, becoming the kind of thing that my landlady would hold against me when the lease came up for renewal?

#36 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:01 PM:

Annea --

That stove has an internal short. Get checked, get fixed, or get rid.

#37 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:07 PM:

You could try a fire self-inspection (many fire departments have handouts -- here's one of them:

For smoke detectors: Is this a smoke detector that was installed by the landlord? (If not, why not?) Some smoke detectors have temporary-shut-off buttons for use when you know that you're about to fry bacon or perform some other activity that's a frequent source of false alarms.

Incidentally, you should replace all your smoke detectors every ten years. According to the NFPA, 30% of all home smoke detectors fail after ten years. 50% fail after 15 years. NFPA standards require that smoke detectors be tested annually with smoke or an approved aerosol actually entering the testing chamber (not just with a "test" button).

#38 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:11 PM:

Eve at 28, the amatuers are even more apparent from Saturday the weekend before Thanksgiving until midnight Wednesday, wandering the aisles of the grocery stores (often with cell phones glued to their ears, always with hunted expressions), lost in their search for pie filling, unable to recognize yams, and stopping and putting their carts crosswise of the aisle as they beg for directions, often not knowing, even, the name of the store they're in.

It's sad.

#39 ::: Jackmormon ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:34 PM:

Thanks for the self-inspection link. I'll be looking again at the network of extension cords that the old wiring in this place has made necessary. And I will ask the landlady for some guidance about the detector that she installed; maybe she has a user's guide I can take a look at. The next step might be to clean the oven thoroughly, alas.

#40 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:55 PM:

LL@9: I first heard about deep-fried turkey at least 15 years ago, on the home-brewer's digest; the huge burners were sold for shrimp/crayfish boils -- you could also do lobsters-for-many, but with a name like Cajun Cooker you know that's not what the manufacturer was expecting. They were found to be good for medium-serious home brewing, where you want 6-7 gallons of slightly sugary water to boil \now/ and stay boiling for 90 minutes, but someone noticed the equipment came with additional instructions.... So originally it was certainly not a once-a-year indulgence -- and for some people, it may still not be. The problem is that it has become what I call an Antarean Parakeet Gland on a Stick (after Adams): something done by rich idiots to impress other rich idiots. It's also done by not-so-rich not-quite-such idiots (if you look at current-day local economics and not at how much richer we are than either our ancestors or most of the rest of the world), but the idiots are the ones who make headlines; the one I most remember is the type who tried to do it on the balcony of his Manhattan apartment....

Jim -- as you probably heard, the night before was the time for our local excitement: a warehouse blowing up on a riverfront north of Boston. Probably not as stressful for the professionals -- no deaths and IIRC no serious injuries or continuing flames -- but hundreds of people having to leave their homes on Thanksgiving evening. It will be interesting to see whether they ever figure out what happened.

At one point class C fires were described as A or B + electricity, but I've known of cases where an arc was the major part of the fire (e.g., someone cleaning "dead" wire out of a burned building diking a pirate service -- burned dozens of feet back to the block, plus a dime-size hole in the dike blades). Is there any extinguisher good ABC and D, or is D too uncommon to be worth including in a home unit? I used to be a chemist and don't \think/ I have any flammable metals around the house -- it was pretty clean when we took possession (the paint from previous jobs has since gone to the city's reuse/recycle center) -- but I know enough to realize I don't know nearly everything about frame construction.

#41 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 11:20 PM:

If I could presume to add a corollary to the excellent notes on using a fire extinguisher above-- know when to leave. If you've still got fire and you're all out of extinguisher, you've done your bit for hearth and home. Get the hell out and get to fresh air. Even if you didn't get it all out, you've probably retarded its progress to some degree and made a swift resolution that much easier when the fire department arrives. Pat yourself on the back as you leave.

This goes triple for asthmatics-- earlier this week, I hit the scene of a kitchen fire as part of the first arriving engine company. The renter of the townhome (and the fire's only victim), a middle-aged asthmatic, decided to fight the fire for several minutes even after their two extinguishers were empty. So the first thing we saw as we got out of the truck was EMS hauling this person away, overcome by smoke, burnt on the hands and forearms.

It's hard to explain how malign the smoke from burning petrochemical gunk (roughly 95% of the stuff in your homes, including carpets, furniture coverings, countertops, and appliance facings) is to those who've never been subsumed in it. It's acrid, evil stuff, poisonous in all sorts of ways, and it will kick off an asthma attack in faint quantities. If you and the other occupants are safe, it's not your job to suck this stuff down. It's not your responsibility to "tough it out" and win a moral victory for your inanimate objects.

Furthermore, even if you have just a wee bitty fire and/or you do get it out with an extinguisher, ventilate the area. Open the windows and doors. Set fans intelligently, to either blow fresh air in from a clean area or to shoot smoky air out a door or window. Air the place out, and keep anyone unnecessary out of the smoked area until it's clear.

I will stress this again, because I married a chronic asthmatic and I have seen them suffering several times now at fire scenes: The ideal place for someone with serious asthma during the post-fire ventilation process is outside. Or in a car. Or at another house altogether.

#42 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 11:22 PM:

Once you disconnect the power, a Class-C fire is just a Class-A or Class-B, yes.

Very few folks will have flammable metals at home; and I'm not aware of any home extinguisher that'll even touch the stuff. If you don't have dry sand, graphite powder, or powdered copper, your best bet is to move other flammables away from the fire until it burns itself out.

Burning metals break water down into hydrogen and oxygen, which feed the flame and explode; they break halon down into phosgene, and break carbon dioxide down into oxygen and carbon monoxide. They may react with dry chemical. Nasty fires.

Class-D fire extinguishers do exist, and are generally painted yellow (as opposed to red, white, or silver for normal fire extinguishers).

Note that dry powder and dry chemical are different things.

#43 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 12:39 AM:

Last year I went through a "training" session given by the local firefighters at the community college where I study ceramics: it was designed to show us What To Do if something in the studio caught fire. Given the number of very toxic chemicals we have on hand, it was very useful, though brief. Here's what I learned. I learned that the first and most important thing to do if something catches fire is to yell, "Fire! Call 911!" The second most important thing to do is for someone to actually Call 911. If there is a fire extinguisher around, if what is burning is not the aformentioned toxic chemicals, and the fire is still small, someone who knows how should use the fire extinguisher. If using the fire extinguisher does not put the fire out -- Get Out! Don't stand around and discuss what else you could throw on the fire to extinguish it, don't attempt to smother it with a handy plastic garbage can, don't try to find the hose you know is around somewhere -- get the fuck out of there and wait for the professionals.

#44 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 01:27 AM:

I don't fry bacon, being a vegetarian. Mostly I fry queso de freir, or something veggie.

I got a CO detector some years ago, and got rid of my crappy cheapass smoke detectors, which went off every time I cooked (a little scorching is required for some foods, geez), with no way to turn them off. Also they made noises at random in the middle of the night.

Any reason to believe that a CO detector might not be adequate by itself? (I live in a tiny blanket still smells like onions from the ones I carmelized a week and a half ago.)

#45 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 01:32 AM:

#42: Very few folks will have flammable metals at home;

Our chemistry teacher burned a pencil sharpener to show us how a metal fire looked, and then let us calculate what would have happend if someone had thrown water on it.

BTW, on treating burns, there's something I wondered about for two years now: Back then, I had the misfortune of having about 1.5 litres of near-boiling water poured over my hand. We applied cold water for five minutes, ice-wrapped-in-towels for three hours, and I slept that night with my hand in a bag full of low-fat curd cheese. The next morning, after gently washing off the curd cheese, the burn felt like a mild sunburn and was gone after three more days (no peeling). I kept a high sensitivity to heat and cold in that hand for months, though. Since then I have wondered if something we did was actually right or if I was just lucky. Anyone knows?

#46 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 01:43 AM:

Anaea (#13): If you cook, have an aloe plant. Cut off a peice and rub it on a superficial burn before it starts to bother you...

As a general rule, for the first 12-24 hours, it's not a good idea to put anything gooey, thick, and/or sticky (which leaves cold water and/or wet ice packs) on the vast majority of burns. Even things that make it feel better (like your aloe) can have a detrimental effect by trapping residual heat inside the injured tissue. Cold water is great for both stopping the burn and the initial pain, but remember that even a quick burn instills a large amount of heat under the visible area. This heat must be allowed to dissipate naturally, and it takes time. Most people tend to apply feel-good-stuff way too soon since, after all, it HURTS! But in doing so, you can make the burn worse and significantly delay the healing process.

My father was a roofer, and got frequent nasty sunburns. He was taught by a firefighter to take an extremely hot shower after such a burn, and he found it helped the discomfort a lot. BUT, after years of badgering by myself, he discovered that the sunburn healed better and faster without the shower. The same holds true for sprays, creams, ointments, and even aloe (although the aloe is probably better than any of the other options).

#47 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 07:46 AM:

#45 What the hey was that pencil sharpener made out of? Yes, you can burn steel wool, or finely divided pretty-much-anything, but the act of touching most metals off if they're in a chunk is hard to do.

#44 A CO detector will detect ... CO. That's only one gas, and not necessarily the first or only thing that'll show up in a fire. Smoke detectors pick up smoke (your higher-end ones contain both ionization and photoelectric detector elements, and will have silence features). They run fifty bucks and less.

#48 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 07:54 AM:

The Texas State Fire Marshall has more handouts and inspection checklists.

#49 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 09:23 AM:

Directions for making Alton Brown's turkey derrick can be found here:

I haven't made one, and have no knowledge of whether it works or not.

#50 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 11:04 AM:

Y'know what all this talk about deep-frying turkeys has done for me?

It's made me want to try deep-frying a turkey.

(BTW -- remember in the original post, when I talked about my partner Mandie? Her husband, Marc, is in the fire department and was at that call too. And y'know what they did after they got home? Deep-fried a turkey.)

#51 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 11:07 AM:

Inge @ 45:
I understand that icepacks are a very good idea. I've used ice myself on smaller burns, with good results. (Got a knuckle on the rim of a hot oven once. Iced it, and it healed without a scar.)

#52 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 12:11 PM:

A hint, and a question.

Rivka posted to LiveJournal a few days ago about her daughter having burned herself slightly the first time she saw an electric stove (they have gas at home), because she didn't realize that those interesting-shaped curved bits of metal were dangerously hot until she touched them. The child didn't like having her hand held under the cold water tap, but was quite happy to sit in Rivka's lap and play with a bowl of ice water, which effectively cooled her burned hand.

The question: there's a mention above about dry sand as a fire-extinguishing tool. Would basic commercial catbox sand do the job? I think what we have may be small clay pellets rather than sand, but it doesn't have any weird scent or deodorizing chemicals in it.

#53 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 12:54 PM:

Dunno about cat-litter as an extinguishing agent for Class-D fires.

(As long as we're talking preparedness: If you run out of extinguisher before you run out of fire, that's when you grab your jump kit on the way out the door.)

#54 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 12:56 PM:

JDM @ 50: Y'know what all this talk about deep-frying turkeys has done for me? It's made me want to try deep-frying a turkey.

Well, it is food with an infernokrusher sensibility.

#55 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 01:33 PM:

Lo-these-many years ago, I lived down the street from a sporting-goods store (basically a gun shop with fishing tackle). One day I came home from work to discover it was a smoking pile of rubble. Apparently they had the ammunition stored in the basement near their indoor range, and something set it off. They tried to put it out before calling 911. One of the two survivors (there were five or six people in the building) was a toddler who was thrown out the door by someone, and the other was an employee who got out (possibly rescued by the fire guys) with burns. It was an object lesson in What Not to Do.

#56 ::: Wim L ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 03:47 PM:

Vicki @ #52: Fuller's earth (the traditional(?) clay cat litter) is in fact used in small amounts in at least some powder/dry chemical fire extinguishers. So I'm guessing it would be at least as good as sand at putting out fires. OTOH, as with sand, it could contain some water, which could flash into steam when put on the fire, possibly scattering burning material around.

OTTH, asyouknowbob, lots of cat litters have organic stuff in them (some are made entirely of corn or wheat or wood shavings). I don't know if clay/organic mixtures are common in cat litters.

Clay cat litter is great stuff for sopping up chemical spills.

My second link might also help answer DDB's (#17) question, but I assume the formulation of the powder varies from extinguisher to extinguisher.

#57 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 04:05 PM:

Ah yes, the Thanksgiving kitchen fire calls. Every year we take bets on when the first one will go out. Usually they aren't fires - it's just that someone who never cleans their oven suddenly decideds to roast a 30 lb turkey, and is utterly amazed when the kitchen fills with smoke. Once in a while they manage to actually catch the oven on fire.

Or there's the person that burns themselves on boiling potato water, or sets the gravy on fire.

Thanksgiving brings out the chef in all of us. For some, it should stay put inside.

Christmas, for some reason, is never as busy. Probably because by then the dopes have figured out to either a) order out or b) clean the oven or c) let someone else cook.

#58 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 04:08 PM:

re: #6
I don't think anyone has a purple K extinguisher anymore.

I have a funny story about what happens when one blows up, though. This was the 70's mind you, so they were still being used. I was a kid when it happened (fourth generation in the Fire Service, thank you), and it was funny to me.

Yes, purple powder all over EVERYTHING. For years and years. I think we finally got all the purple out sometime in the late 80's

#59 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 04:15 PM:

Metal fires are, in my father's experience, incendiary bombs. He was an A.R.P. Warden (later Civil Defence). See also Fire Watch by Connie Willis.

Anyway, they seem to have been such interesting devices as magnesium alloy cases packed with thermite. And what you did was either smother them with earth or sand, or flood them with water from a stirrup pump, which made them burn faster.

#60 ::: Julie ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 05:56 PM:

Some more tips for using fire extinguishers:
1. When using a powder-based extinguisher, try to avoid breathing through your mouth, because you get a really disgusting mouthful of powder, especially if you're, say, aiming at an electrical junction box that's three feet above your head.

2. If a neighbor helps you put out a fire, it's a nice gesture to replace their extinguisher later.

3. Be sure to hang around until the firemen take off their face masks and jackets because, whoa, those guys are good looking. And fit.

Also, they tend to be nice to you if you got the fire put out before they arrive, even if they shake their heads at the antiquated little extinguisher you had on hand.

4. A related item: if the copper groundwire for the household current is, say, sixty years old, you should have that replaced. By a certified electrician, not some dude that your mother-in-law's brother managed to keep out of jail. Because if the ground fails, the current will try to get to ground any other way, even via the cable wiring. Not good.

#61 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 07:06 PM:

It's funny you should mention ventillation, #41 ::: Scott Lynch - I discovered a few days ago that methylated spirits are unlike any solvent that I've worked with to date (the normal sorts - laquer thinner, contact cement, acetone...). Damn, but when they say "well ventilated area", they really mean "high speed wind tunnel".

#62 ::: Janet Kegg ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 07:34 PM:

I've been on hand in a minor role for the Deep-Frying of the Thanksgiving Turkey on 3 occasions. The results were very, very tasty.

And I don't think we were idiots for doing it. We were appropriately afraid and followed the instructions given for doing so safely.

And, yes, as a group activity it was fun. (This year we ate at a Manhattan restaurant having lost an appropriate venue for turkey frying.)

#63 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 07:40 PM:


We managed to set our oven on fire this year. Twice, actually; grease creeping out of the turkey pan onto the element in the oven bottom, generating copious thick black oil smoke and lots of profanity from the chief chef.

So we let it burn out, pulled out the bird, cleaned out the oven, and had dinner an hour and a half later than originally planned.

On the plus, at least we are now very sure our smoke detector (a.k.a. Bachelor Dinner Alarm) works properly.

#64 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 07:57 PM:

Stupid Wok Trick:

A couple of years back, I discovered the joys of stir-frying. I bought a nice wok from Goodwill, a bottle of peanut oil, and bags of vegetable mix and shrimp. I'm not a master at the technique, but I made some pretty good piles of slop.

One day:

I put the wok on (electric) range's front burner, and turned the heat way up high, as instructed. I had the ingredients ready to go . . . as it happened, in the upended wok-lid. Poured in the peanut oil after it started smoking, again as instructed.

Fup! The oil caught fire. Not in a major way. It was gentler than, say, a sterno-can flame.

I wasn't particularly worried. There wasn't a lot of smoke. The flames weren't threatening to set any cabinets on fire.

So. How to put it out? I tried a stiff puff of breath. Success! For a moment; the flame reignited, as it did again when I blew again.

Obviously, I had to get the wok off the red-hot burner before trying again. Problem: The stovetop was full of crap. One burner had a kettle on it, the other a bot with boiling noodles, the other the wok lid (which, as mentioned, couldn't be used for smothering the flame because it was full of stuff).

Other problem: The box of sodium bicarbonate that might come in handy for extinguishment was in a cabinet over the stove. I wasn't so brave as to tippy-toe up to get it.

So. I put the wok on the kitchen floor. Grabbed the Arm & Hammer, poured it on. The fire went out instantly.

I picked up the wok to put it in the sink so I could wash it out and start again.

It stuck.

Linoleum floor.


#65 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 09:33 PM:

Class D (flammable metal) fires very recently came up on a mailing list I'm on:

A lot of people do have something in their homes which can rarely be the source of a class D fire - Lithium-Ion or Lithium-Polymer laptop batteries. All those "exploding" Dell/Apple/Sony laptops have involved a defective battery going into a runaway exothermic reaction which ignites the lithium.

A friend on the list had received training in the Navy on how to suppress a small Class D fire - you drop it into a bucket of sand, and then you throw the bucket off the ship. Alas, I fear this solution does not translate well for landlubbers.

#66 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 09:58 PM:

Wanna see something really cool?

Watch a carfire with mag wheels. Yeah, that stuff lights up pretty.

Or a truck fire with a magnesium handtruck. Bright as a Christmas tree!

#67 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 10:10 PM:

I have a smoke alarm that can be turned off once in each instance with a TV remote. I have to test it, though, since I don't cook anymore. I'm partially paralyzed and have balance problems and have become weaker to the point where I hurt myself too much too often (knives, heat) when I try to cook. Fortunately, there are some good frozen microwavable meals out there.

#68 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 10:52 PM:

Some who remember Good Old Stuff may remember the demonstration of just how vicious burning metals are; in part 2 of Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, a large fire elemental is paralyzed by the site of a strip of magnesium merrily burning in a beaker of water. Not on, as sodium will do because it's so light (and commonly stored in oil), but in.

#69 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 10:52 PM:

#47: What the hey was that pencil sharpener made out of?

Magnesium, with a steel blade -- the cheap kind that every student had in their pencil case. I do not remember what happened to the blade, or if the teacher removed it before she introduced the pencil sharpener to the bunsen burner.

#70 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 10:53 PM:

gah -- that's "sight", not "site".

#71 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 12:43 AM:

Another Do Not: Do not try to deep fry a turkey that exceeds the capacity of your turkey fryer. As a participant in the great turkey conflagration of Chirurgeon's Camp at Pennsic one year, I can personally attest to this. Fortunately, since the fryer was set in our fire pit in the open, the results were spectacular and alarming rather than catastrophic.

#72 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 01:24 AM:

Ah yes, CHip - a great scene in the annals of offensive combat psychotherapy. "Can you do this??"

#73 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 08:31 AM:

Uh, you lit up a turkey IN the Chiurgeon's Camp?

That's funny. How ever did you dress the fryer up to look period? Or was that why it was in the pit?


Which war was this? 'Cause I didn't hear that story.

#74 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 11:05 AM:


Since I don't want to bore those that have read it already I'll leave you to look up the post I did about my uncle, the five-gallon coffee can, the magnesium chips, the water, the gasoline, the driveway, and the LAFD truck. Fun times!

#75 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 11:06 AM:

Thanks for many good tips here and elsewhere.

On covering burns:
the first-aid advice I remember from years ago was "never put goo on a burn!" where this included butter, vaseline, and all the other substances people were inclined to think would help (or that their parents had always used etc.).

And that's consistent with your advice to put on sterile dressings, and leave them dry.

That's why I was a little surprised to see that the individual first aid kit for some of the services is including a large gel-based burn dressing, called "WaterJel", with instructions for application to burns.

Is this 'cause:
a) they are assuming you don't have an ER to go to?
b) they're behind the times on treatment?
c) this is better than butter?
d) something else?

#76 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 01:32 PM:

> five-gallon coffee can, the magnesium chips

During my year off as a Student Engineer, I spent a day with the works chemist. Sadly I just missed him disposing of a large jar of sodium.
Method: place empty oil drum in large open space in airfield, place sodium in oil drum, get airfield fire engine to play water into drum until all the fizzing and banging stops then more water on it until the sodium hydroxide is well diluted.

#77 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 01:35 PM:

P.S. Elsewhere on the same site, they were experimenting with lithium-aluminium alloys. Not actually significantly more flammable than magnesium-aluminium once solid, but did have to be cast in vacuum.

#78 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 04:21 PM:

Yes, water just spreads that burning magnesium around, don't it?

#79 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 04:54 PM:

#59 - incendiary bombs - one of my schoolteachers told us about the attempts to bomb Norwich Cathedral (which must have been during the Baedeker Blitz, April 27th & 29th 1942). They dropped incendiary bombs with the expectation that it would burn the wooden roof. Unfortunately for them, Norwich Cathedral has a stone-vaulted roof. He said (I don't vouch for the accuracy) that he was up there on the roof with the wardens and they just shoved the burning bombs off the edge.

A friend of mine burnt a 20-lb block of magnesium on Ocean Beach about 10 years ago. I left before he got it ignited. I believe he tried gunpowder and maybe lighting it directly, but in the end he just threw it on the bonfire. It was apparently quite bright.

#80 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 05:02 PM:

Jim, I kind of know how you feel about all this talk making you want to try turkey frying, but mostly it just makes me want some deep-fried turkey, because deep-fried turkey is delicious. Seriously, some of the best turkey I've ever had.

#81 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 06:19 PM:

One of our annual client dinners is a Thanksgiving cookout for the workers and management at a construction debris landfill. This year involved four deep fryers: two filled with oil for the turkeys, two filled with water for the shrimp and oysters.

We had a nor'easter come through that day.

The whole works moved into a small mechanical building. They cleared out everything from one end except the floor-mounted tools and set up the cookers there. Inside. I suppose it was safer than having the rain blow into the hot oil. I still stayed near the door.

Oh, and deep-fried turkey IS delicious.

#82 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 07:07 PM:

Christine @ #73 - It was in 2002. We didn't have it in the pit to hide it - the pit wasn't anywhere near that deep - but we'd had a nasty patch of oily grass the previous year from doing a turkey. Bit of spitting. There was a lot of mundane stuff in view in that camp.

And yes, it was embarassing to have a highly conspicuous near-emergency in Chirurgeon's Camp.

#83 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 10:00 PM:

kid bitzer @75 asks about watergel burn dressings- these are the new stuff, and came out of research the burns unit at Baylor- they aid healing by keeping the area moist and sterile, and help with pain by keeping air from the wound.

This may be the place to mention that one should never, ever, drop an oven shelf preheated to 500F on ones foot.

#84 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 10:09 PM:

I'm told watergel is great stuff. We don't carry it ourselves; but I imagine it works pretty well. If you have a serious burn you want to have it checked out in the ER anyway.

#85 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 11:29 PM:


Thanks for this, and all of your other emergency posts.

Now that my major conference is over, I'm looking at jump bags for our front door...

#86 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 08:28 AM:

Christine at 57:

"it's just that someone who never cleans their oven suddenly decideds to roast a 30 lb turkey, and is utterly amazed when the kitchen fills with smoke."

A while ago, I was wondering what to use to clean my oven, since some of the available chemicals looked pretty nasty. So I looked it up in my Consumer Reports guide How to Clean Practically Everything, where I found the following surprising advice on how to clean a gas oven: don't. Just let the oven burn whatever it is off in the course of normal cooking.

I was a little skeptical, but I figured they knew more about the subject than I did, so I followed their advice, and it's worked thus far.

We use the oven regularly, for (among other things) roast chicken, small cakes, potatoes, and squash.

#87 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 12:17 PM:

Vicki #86:

Our gas oven has a self-clean thing, which we've used once. It's better than EZOff and its ilk, but does not get the glass clean (no surprise there) and sets off the smoke alarm. I'm delighted to see I'm not supposed to clean the thing at all (I don't think we deliberately paid extra for the self-clean; it just came along for the ride with some other extra features).

Side note: we spent week before last dealing with a plague of smoke alarm batteries chirping their last. The house came with two incredibly ancient-looking smoke alarms which we had planned to just remove and replace with new ones. Turned out they were wired into the house, on a circuit for which we could find no breaker. Not wishing to shut off the whole house, and not believing that the alarms could possibly still function (which indeed they don't for purposes of actual alarm), we left them in place and installed new battery alarms right next to the old ones. We tend to replace batteries on New Year's instead of fall-back, so it was annoying but not catastrophic when the two battery alarms responded to a cold snap by chirping at six a.m. It was somewhat more annoying when the alarms chirped again a couple of mornings later; that was when we discovered that the alarms wired into the house also required batteries in order to do their thing--and got noisy about it if the batteries weren't there--even though they don't function at all for their primary purpose.

#88 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 01:08 PM:

Yeah, I don't physically clean the oven, but I do run the self-clean a time or two per year. Usually when the weather is warm, because I open all the windows and doors to do it.

Most people don't. Then they get all upset when they have to use the thing for the turkey, the oven starts burning off all the stuff they've built up, and smoke fills the house, hence the 911 call.

You'd be amazed at how often it happens.

#89 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 01:42 PM:

We've got an electric oven (like every other appliance in the house), and I used the self-cleaning function a couple of days before Thanksgiving. It was still doing its thing when I left the house to pick up a few items for the feast; while standing in line at the Safeway checkout I got a cellphone call asking me "What's this chirping noise?"

"Oven's clean," I said.

#90 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 02:15 PM:

On a not entirely unrelated topic, here (in YouTube video format) is a 22-piece earthquake preparedness kit that fits in a teddy bear, which has straps like a backpack. It includes a flashlight radio, first aid, grooming kit, food, and a deck of cards, among other things. It wears a whistle around its neck and has a glow-in-the-dark armband. (Found via LJ's "tvinjapan" feed.)

#91 ::: dilbert dogbert ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 03:44 PM:

Re Magnesium and Fire Bombs
We built an armored personel carrier, M113, out ot mag cause some brass thought it would be lighter. M113s were supposded to be air transportable and could be dropped by para. The vehicle was of welded construction. I always wondered why it didn't catch fire. 20,000lbs or so of mag burning would have being quite a sight. It was an interesting experience as mag has some very interesting characteristics like not liking to stay the same shape if you heat it. Aluminum is the same except it doesn't wiggle as much.
I read "Flyboys" and found that the Germans used thermite in their firebombs but Napalm firebombs were used by the Americans to burn down the Japanese cities. Don't read this book if you still think of ww2 as the "good war".

#92 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 04:54 PM:

Lizzy (9): "Unless you use a liquid propane gas tank to cook all your food, all the time, using one to cook a heavy, ungainly piece of meat once a year strikes me as nuts.

But maybe that's just me..."

It's not just you. I believe the original deep-fried turkey method was invented by Cajuns who did a lot of deep-frying all year round, which was why they had giant deep-fryer setups in the first place. They also had concrete porches (or open-doored garages, if it was raining) to set up the thing. It worked for them.

The problem was that word of this method spread to people who don't normally do deep-frying in those quantities, have wooden decks rather than poured-concrete patios, and live in places where it's unheard-of to cook stuff on the back porch on Thanksgiving.

Berry (12), that was suitably terrifying.

Donboy (22), I refer you to Ajay's comment in the "Blog" meta-thread.

Inge (45): You did the right thing. Cooling the burn site as quickly as possible stops the cooking. Keeping it cool thereafter, but not doing frostbite damage, will also help minimize the injury. Curd cheese will soak up a lot of heat, and it's easy to clean off afterward, but beyond that I don't think there's any particular virtue in it.

#93 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 04:57 PM:

Magnesium: If you're going to burn a sizeable chunk of magnesium in a sandy area, consider throwing a little flux and some metallic oxides onto the sand first. The glass you make might as well be pretty.

#94 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 05:31 PM:

I have been unjust to Ajay. It wasn't a single comment; it was a sequence of three.

#95 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 06:16 PM:


wasn't that also part of the problem with "The Shiny Sheff", i.e. the HMS Sheffield, hit by an Exocet missile during the Falklands War? I.e. made of aluminum, and so very flammable once critical temperature is reached?

"Exocet", by the way, was the word Theophrastus coined for what we call "amphibians" (exokoitos, sleeps out of water). The missile was a land/water jobby, so an amphibian.

Sorry--I just remembered. An HMS couldn't have been made of aluminum. It must have been aluminium.

#96 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 06:17 PM:

and parts of that last post were an homage to the comments by Ajay that TNH linked to, in which he referred to gratuitously erudite references to dead languages.

Can't never get enough of those, now, can we?

#97 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 01:18 AM:

I don't clean my oven because I don't cook in it. The toaster oven doesn't seem to get dirty.

#98 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 03:24 AM:

Remember the USS Belknap fire. (Another ship with an aluminum superstructure; it had a collision at sea with the Can Opener.)

#99 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 06:11 AM:

kid bitzer (#95):
The story about the Sheffield's aluminum/aluminium superstructure catching fire has been around for a while, although it's a myth: its superstructure was actually made of steel. See here, for example, or here if for some reason you want to read the Ministry of Defense Board of Inquiry report, complete with charmingly old-fashioned "XXXXXXX" censoring of classified bits.

There was a case of a different class of British frigate with an aluminum structure catching fire in 1977, which apparently helped convince the Royal Navy to give up on aluminum, just as the Belknap incident did for the US Navy.

#100 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 06:22 AM:

it's a myth

In fact, Peter, and to paraphrase Clark Kent, this looks like a job for the MythBusters. And a chance for them to wreck something although they'd probably not try this out with one of the ships still in the Bay Area's nearby Mothball Fleet.

#101 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:16 AM:

Serge @ 100:

Yes, that sounds like it would be pretty fun to watch (though I probably wouldn't get the chance to see it given that I'm living in Germany).

For some reason, I'm trying to imagine how this might work with R/C naval combat, although I gather the model ships they use are WW1 or WW2.

#102 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 03:46 PM:

Thanksgiving dinner this year with my SO's relatives featured deep-fried turkey. Thinking about it, the cook's setup could have been an utter disaster (the fryer was on dry grass next to a wooden porch and under trees, for starters) but nothing bad happened.

However, for all those upthread claiming that deep-fried turkey tastes great: What do you do to make it taste great? This turkey had no taste at all! Definitely not something I would care to repeat.

#103 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 08:21 AM:

Another important safety tip:

Pouring red-hot aluminum in the bottom of a 2-meter pit runs the risk of having ones socks catch on fire from the radiant heat.

This is from a fascinating paper on the architecture of ant nests; said architecture was made manifest by a variety of techniques, including pouring plaster or molten metal (zinc or aluminum) into the nests. As the author explains, aluminum makes for quick, strong casts, but won't penetrate to the bottom of a deep nest before it cools and solidifies, so you need to dig out the cast, upper part of the nest and do it again.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page for some of the figures, which are really quite amazing; Figure 1 is someone (I assume the author) posing next to a very deep and complex nest; Figure 6b is a cast made with aluminum.

#104 ::: Andy ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 04:44 PM:

I just read a post on the blog of an EMT who works in London that has a neat mention of the incident command system. He says "It's what we are supposed to do with 'major incidents', the first person on scene takes charge until someone with some pips on their epaulettes turns up."

#105 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 07:37 PM:

This reminds me of the Burnt Potato Incident.

My family had an old kitchen stove, gas-fired, the oven light long burned out. For a while, whenever we used the oven, the smoke detector (near the kitchen) would go off, even when we were not baking smoke-emitting substances such as roasts.

The mystery was finally solved when the oven was cleaned (by hand) and we discovered an abandoned, carbonized baked potato in the back of the topmost, unused rack.

It weighed nothing -- completely turned to carbon, but still intact.

#106 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:20 PM:

sara @ 105:

That's the second-most-deceased baked potato I'ver ever heard of. First is the one cooked by the then-early-teen grandchild of a former boss, who asked her how long a potato should be baked, without saying it was going into the microwave. Forty minutes later - well, it was ovendust.

#107 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:58 PM:

P J Evans #106

We have a term for objects left too long in the microwave: "artifacted". But they're just hard as rocks, not completely consumed.

#108 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 06:14 PM:

#102: However, for all those upthread claiming that deep-fried turkey tastes great: What do you do to make it taste great? This turkey had no taste at all!

Most of the on-line recipes I've found involve injecting spices before cooking.

#109 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 07:11 PM:

A couple July Fourths ago, our holiday backyard BBQ featured a deep-fried turkey. One of our neighbors was seriously into home brewing at the time, so he had the proper equipment. My SO, a former oil refinery worker provided the safety coveralls, gloves and goggles for the chef. We placed the fryer on the sidewalk, as far away from the house as possible without actually being on the street.

We all waited for disaster to occur, but our paranoia was for the good and nobody was hurt. :) And the turkey was indeed the most delicious I'd ever tasted. The key is to inject it with spices before cooking -- the recipe we followed called for BBQ sauce, but I suppose one could use pretty much anything.

(Damn, I was already craving turkey since I was out of the country last week and thus missed Thanksgiving ... this thread is killing me! :)

#110 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2006, 10:18 PM:

Dozens poisoned in wake of NW storm

SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- About 100 people have been poisoned by carbon monoxide produced by generators and charcoal grills used for warmth and light during the widespread power outages caused by a major storm in western Washington state.

One man died of inhaling the colorless, odorless gas. At least six other people were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning in Oregon.

"We're dealing with a carbon-monoxide epidemic in western Washington," said Dr. Neil Hampson of Virginia Mason Medical Center, which treated more than 55 people in its hyperbaric chamber, where pressure is used to force oxygen into the blood.

"This has the potential to be the worst case of carbon-monoxide poisoning in the country," Hampson said.

Carbon monoxide detectors, folks. Battery-operated ones. And remember that anything with a flame in it is a potential source of CO.

#111 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2006, 04:09 PM:

Carbon monoxide detected at duplex where 7 died

KIRKSVILLE, Missouri (AP) -- A woman and her two young children were among seven people found dead after a "strange odor" was reported coming from a duplex apartment, and a third child was unaccounted for, police said Monday.

The cause of death had not been established, and police Chief Jim Hughes would not speculate on the possibility of foul play.

The chief said a fire department sensor indicated a high level of carbon monoxide, but the home heating system was functioning properly and was not the source of any problem.

"It's a very critical element of our investigation," Hughes said.

He would not say whether a van parked in the garage was running when police arrived, but said it was taken to a crime lab. He said he expected autopsy results no later than Tuesday.

#112 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 11:29 AM:

Another four dead yesterday of carbon monoxide in Seattle.

Honest, guys, this stuff is nasty.

#113 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 01:17 PM:

Wikipedia on CO poisoning.
Yes, I realize you were all capable of looking this up for yourselves. Nevertheless, the CDC reports that about 500 Americans die every year as a result of CO poisoning; the Wikipedia article reports that around 200 of these deaths are related to home heating equipment, and that over 40,000 people report for treatment. Therefore, I shall not merely link, but quote as well.

Note the first paragraph, which reads: "Carbon monoxide (CO) is a product of combustion of organic matter under conditions of restricted oxygen supply, which prevents complete oxidation to carbon dioxide." If not enough oxygen is present, combustion cannot produce cardon dioxide.

Other highlights from this article:
"Common sources of CO which may lead to poisoning include house fires, furnaces/heaters, wood-burning stoves, motor vehicle exhausts, and propane-fuelled equipment such as portable camping stoves, ice resurfacers, and forklifts."

"Carbon monoxide is life-threatening to humans and other forms of air-breathing life, as inhaling even relatively small amounts of it can lead to hypoxic injury, neurological damage, and possibly death. A concentration of as little as 0.04% (400 parts per million) carbon monoxide in the air can be fatal. The gas is especially dangerous because it is not easily detected by human senses. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include drowsiness and headache, followed by unconsciousness, respiratory failure, and death. First aid for a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning requires access to fresh air; administration of artificial respiration and, if available, oxygen; and, as soon as possible, medical attention."

On the mechanism of CO poisoning:
"When carbon monoxide is inhaled, it takes the place of oxygen in haemoglobin, the red blood pigment that normally carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Because carbon monoxide binds to haemoglobin several hundred times more strongly than oxygen, its effects are cumulative and long-lasting, causing oxygen starvation throughout the body. Prolonged exposure to fresh air (or pure oxygen) is required for the CO-tainted hemoglobin (carboxyhaemoglobin) to clear. Carbon monoxide detectors for homes are now readily available and are increasingly being required by municipal building codes."
"Carbon monoxide has a significant affinity to the iron (or copper) sites in hemoglobin, the principal oxygen-carrying compound in blood. The affinity between carbon monoxide and hemoglobin is 240 times stronger than the affinity between hemoglobin and oxygen."

In case you were curious about symptoms:

"The effects of carbon monoxide in parts per million are listed below:

35 ppm (0.0035%) Headache and dizziness within six to eight hours of constant exposure

100 ppm (0.01%) Slight headache in two to three hours

200 ppm (0.02%) Slight headache within two to three hours

400 ppm (0.04%) Frontal headache within one to two hours

800 ppm (0.08%) Dizziness, nausea, and convulsions within 45 minutes. Insensible within two hours.

1,600 ppm (0.16%) Headache, dizziness, and nausea within 20 minutes. Death in less than two hours.

3,200 ppm (0.32%) Headache, dizziness and nausea in five to ten minutes. Death within 30 minutes.

6,400 ppm (0.64%) Headache and dizziness in one to two minutes. Death in less than 20 minutes.

12,800 ppm (1.28%) Death in less than three minutes.

In addition, a recent report concludes that carbon monoxide exposure can lead to significant loss of lifespan after exposure due to damage to the heart muscle."

Do not use your camp stove indoors. Do not use your grill or hibachi indoors.

Be sure, if you are using a kerosene or propane heater, that it is well-vented and that you have an adequate source of fresh air in the room, even if it is fcking cold fresh air. If that means opening a window, open a window.

Portable generators are meant to be run outdoors only.

If you are indoors, and have lost electricity as the result of an ice storm or other cold-weather crisis, dress as warmly as possible. Put people who are not up and performing necessary tasks into bed with each other (especially the frail elderly, children, and the sick), even if it's the middle of the day and they feel silly about it. Consider sharing bedspace with pets, even if you don't do so normally. The more warm bodies you have together, the warmer they will remain. Eat as much as you can hold, even if you do not feel hungry. Do not consume significant amounts of alcohol--this may make you feel warm, but as a vasodilator, alcohol will cause you to lose core heat, which is a Bad Thing in this case. The little boot and hand warmers, which consist of a mix of iron filings and salt, will generate heat slowly and fairly safely for about 8 hours, and are useful as bedwarmers as well. If you can safely heat bricks or water, a hot brick in the bed or a hot water bottle can help keep people warm. Do not go to sleep with a kerosene or gas-fueled space heater running--and this includes gas fireplace logs.

Most of all, buy, install, and regularly check a CO detector, which should be battery-operated.

CO poisoning is one of those gifts that can keep on giving for week, months, and years, so don't get brave about it. Cautious is very much smarter.

#114 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 01:59 PM:

And you need to change your CO detectors regularly, like you change your smoke alarm. They only last so long. We found that out last winter, fortunately with a false positive - it wouldn't stop blaring.

I bought a better one, but it's still only supposed to last about 5 years.

#115 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 02:11 PM:

#94: *glows with pride*

#116 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 03:50 PM:

I pay attention to carbon monoxide cases, partly because we see 'em a lot. We see several cases every winter. The first suicide I ever went to as an EMT was a carbon monoxide event.

Not that carbon monoxide is the only way your charcoal grill can hurt you. A few years back we had an extended power outage due to an ice storm. A person took a big kettle of water outside and put it on his barbecue grill to boil. This was unsteady. It tipped over. Boiling water went everywhere, and soaked into his heavy winter clothing that kept it right up against his skin.

That wasn't a pretty injury.

Meanwhile: Twenty-buck battery-operated carbon monoxide detector.

They make excellent gifts.

#117 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 08:02 PM:

Justly so, ajay. That sequence of comments was one of the funniest things ever posted here.

#118 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:28 PM:

Getting back to the turkey for a moment -- if the secret is the injected spices, why don't they work as well in a conventional turkey? I'd think slow cooking would let them perfuse more thoroughly than (relatively) quick frying....

#119 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 01:55 AM:

For your regular oven-cooked turkey you have spiced stuffing. (And lots of people swear by brining the silly things.)

#120 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 02:03 AM:

Turkeys are only silly while alive. Gently killed, seasoned and cooked, they're delicious. And full of tryptophzzzZZZzzzz...

#121 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 02:21 AM:

much, much later: James @108: Now you mention it, I'd lay odds there were no spices involved in the preparation of this particular turkey. Still, everyone there except me was going "oh, this is delicious" ... of course, they might just have been being polite.

#122 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 11:06 PM:

From today's (19JAN07) The Berlin Daily Sun

(Berlin is the largest town in Coös County; it's about 50 miles south and east of me.)

Three found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning

BERLIN--Three family members were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning Wednesday night that investigators blame on a faulty boiler and plugged chimney at their Demers Street house.

Investigators believe 15-year old Travis Robbins and his grandfather, Donald Robbins, 54, may have been trying to rescue the boy's great-grandmother, Henrietta Robbins, 75, when they were overcome.

The investigators revealed the oil-fired hot water boiler had venting problems and was giving off smoke.


The home had no carbon monoxide detector and the single smoke detector lacked a battery.


It has been a rough month for Berlin and especially for police, fire, and emergency responders. Two weeks earlier, three people were killed in a massive fire on upper Main Street. In that fire, a five year old child was among the victims.

Many of the first responders were the same at both tragedies.

"It's terrible," said [N.H. Deputy Fire Marshall John] Raymond. He said that the loss of lives takes an awful toll on first responders.

Counselors were on hand yesterday to talk to students at the Berlin Middle School where Travis Robbins was a student.

Two family dogs also died in this incident.

Wednesday of this week we had four people (and one dog) here in town ... same sort of deal ... but they were luckier. They got out of their house when they started feeling lightheaded and nauseous. Could have been different if they'd already gone to sleep before the problem started.

Please, everyone, buy a carbon monoxide detector. I'm told that Illinois made them mandatory as of the first of January of this year. I wish that a law wasn't necessary.

#123 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 11:00 PM:

CNN has taken up the carbon monoxide awareness banner as well, here.

#124 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2007, 12:36 PM:

I'm late to the thread, but thought I would add my experience, as I am curious as to what others think. I trained in Europe as a chef in the late 70's - early 80's. As a newcomer (apprentice) I still had to endure much of the ritualistic stuff that goes on in professional kitchens... (you'd be surprised).

At any rate, burns are quite common, obviously. Mostly the superficial kind, since you typically have the ability to pull out of whatever bad situation your are in... But sometimes not. In a highly frenetic environment such as a brigade-level kitchen, safety often takes a backseat to expediancy, especially when deadlines loom. So, I remember one "trick" that was imposed on a freshly burnt worker(mainly to get us back to work quickly) was to have three or four fellows grab and hold the poor guy/gal, and then hold the offending burn hovering just over the flat top (a thick piece of flat steel suspended over a bunch of burners). The flat tops didn't quite glow, but almost. So the idea as I understood it was to dry out the burn, but it also had the intended effect of having the burn "feel" much better once this bizzare ritual was over with, allowing us to better and more quickly serve our masters.

So, is there anything to this "drying out" idea, or were we being conned completely?
Inquiring minds...

And thanks for the great blog!

#125 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2007, 01:08 PM:

Other than stunning your pain receptors into silence I can't think of a single reason that "drying out" a burn would help.

You'd probably get much the same effect by having someone stomp on your foot.

#126 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2007, 03:11 AM:

I was led to this video from a post that linked to Making Light.

Another Brit public safety spot, this one on Deep Fryer fires.

#127 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2007, 10:43 AM:

James D. McDonald (#122): Please, everyone, buy a carbon monoxide detector. I'm told that Illinois made them mandatory as of the first of January of this year. I wish that a law wasn't necessary.

The nice thing about it being a legal requirement is that it normally means that the purchase and installation of the detector is the landlord's problem, not the tenants', which means that low-income families won't have to decide between a detector and other needfuls.

#128 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2008, 08:07 PM:

Greg McMullan - 1963-2008

Folks around here might remember him as a filker in the con scene on the east coast.

Dead in a fire at his townhouse about a week ago. His wife and daughter were away at the time.

If you have any memories of him you'd like to share, his brother has requested posts at his LiveJournal.

#129 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2009, 04:44 AM:

I can now report that Water-Jel burn kits work great.

#130 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2009, 01:27 PM:

Jim: I'm sorry to hear that. I mean, I'm glad they work great, you have my sympathy for having a certain knowledge.

#131 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2009, 01:08 AM:

What to do if you suspect that there is a carbon monoxide problem in your house.

(Cross-posted because this post is the one that comes up for "carbon monoxide" in Google, which was the first search I performed when I needed the information.)

#132 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 03:19 PM:

Jim, you don't mention first aide for genuine superficial burns, the ones that are:

"A superficial burn only affects the top layer of the epidermis. This is like a sunburn. It’s painful, but (unless it’s extensive) not too serious. The surface of the skin is dry and reddened. The burn is painful and sensitive to touch."

I'm guessing run under cold water until it is cool, then take Advil or a similar pain killer/anti-inflammatory, and keep it clean and dry?

Or are home remedies such as aloe gel appropriate once you know the burn is only superficial?

#133 ::: Mary Aileen wonders if that's spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2010, 12:45 PM:

#133 is kind of on topic but...

#134 ::: P J Evans also wonders ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2010, 12:56 PM:

It seems to be a legit website, but, on the other hand, this wasn't a post about CO poisoning.

#135 ::: James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2010, 05:49 PM:

We do talk a lot here about carbon monoxide.

On the other hand, it has a lot of the marks of some SEO spam. I'll think about it.

#136 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2010, 07:03 PM:

That poster appears to be a SEO Consultant who has posted on other forums under the name of "Jaya".

#137 ::: Teresa thinks y'all are right about the spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2010, 10:28 PM:

Looks like tailored spam to me. If Jaya has fallen into the accidental appearance of tailored spam, he or she can explain it to us, and we can reinstate the comment. Otherwise, not.

Thank you Mary Eileen, P J Evans, Earl Cooley III, and Jim. Good call. Good ears, all of you.

#138 ::: Sandy B. sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2011, 09:05 AM:

A bot just came out in favor of lighting people on fire. I do not think it has humanity's best interests in mind.

#139 ::: SamChevre Confirms Spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2011, 08:25 AM:

The view-all-by makes it clear.

#140 ::: Naomi Parkhurst sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2011, 06:21 AM:

brtn services spam?! there's a spate of it.

#141 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2012, 07:31 PM:

Snow Globes Ignite Fire in Oregon Home. With "a little help" from the sun....

#142 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2013, 05:49 AM:

If the fire don't get you, then the smok(ing) will.

In memory of Carter Graham, a much-loved friend of many of my friends. He was barely burned, but the smoke inhalation killed him.

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