How to ruin a perfect Thanksgiving dinner!

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Been there. Done that. And from experience, I can tell you it wasn’t pleasant.

Photo Credit: Doug Bardwell, Red Cross volunteer

Yes, we had an oven fire…

And our bird was toast – literally…

And our kitchen was full of smoke…

And family was arriving.

The smoke alarm was annoyingly loud. Everyone wanted to know the story of how it happened, but secretly, they wanted the turkey, which wasn’t to be that year.

So, what lessons were learned?

To feed a family this size, we needed a big bird, and our mistake was putting a giant bird in too small of a pan. The legs overlapped the sides of the pan, and grease dripped onto the lower burners, which must have started burning almost immediately. When we noticed it, the entire oven was smoke and flame- filled.

To our credit, we had a charged and ready home fire extinguisher outside the kitchen door. That was fortunate, because the flames in the oven precluded reaching in and removing the pan with the turkey until the fire was out.

Photo Credit: Doug Bardwell, Red Cross volunteer

Also, we had enough side dishes to have a glorious feast still…once the smoke cleared. We averted a tragedy. And, we use larger pans now.

We didn’t adhere to Rule Number One in this Red Cross Thanksgiving cooking tips list – Don’t be like us.

Every eight minutes, donations to the Red Cross help someone affected by a disaster—most often, home fires. You can help save lives by making a financial donation to support our mission, signing up to become a volunteer, or taking steps to protect your family from home fires. Visit redcross.org to learn more.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross board member and volunteer

Dedicated volunteers spend Thanksgiving week assisting home fire victims

While many of us enjoyed time relaxing with family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, American Red Cross disaster volunteers were busy responding to multiple incidents across the Northern Ohio Region. During the week of Thanksgiving, November 22-28, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio responded to 34 home fires, affecting 110 adults and children. We distributed more than $22,000 in immediate assistance to help these families begin the recovery process.


Of the many responses that happened in the past week, three occurred on Thanksgiving Day. Dedicated volunteers in the Northern Ohio Region left their own families and celebrations to assist families facing one of the worst days imaginable. Without the continued commitment of volunteers who are available 24/7 to respond to disasters, the Red Cross could not meet the needs of the many communities we serve.

The Red Cross normally sees an increase in local disasters, especially home fires, during the holiday season and this year is no exception. Cooking accidents and home heating mistakes often lead to fires that leave families stranded during the winter months. The Red Cross encourages the community to celebrate safely in the coming weeks and to read up on our tips to cook and decorate safely.


It’s also important that families are prepared for a home fire that could happen at any time. In most cases, families have less than two minutes to escape a home fire, although many believe they have much longer. The Red Cross encourages you to protect your family by taking two simple steps.

  1. Practice your two-minute escape drill
  2. Test your smoke alarms monthly

In an effort to #EndHomeFires, the Red Cross continues to provide home fire safety information to residents and to install smoke alarms for those who need them. On Monday Nov. 29, volunteers visited 22 homes and installed 67 smoke alarms in Cleveland and East Cleveland. View our photo album here.

For more information on the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, fire safety tips, or to request a smoke alarm, please visit this site. The Red Cross also has an urgent need for volunteers to respond to local disasters and help in other ways as we carry out our lifesaving mission. Learn more about our volunteer positions and sign up today.