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Keep BBQs, outdoor grilling fun with these fire safety tips

Article Published 07/10/2008

Summer just isn’t summer without a family backyard barbecue, a campfire with friends up the canyon or at the lake, or cooking with outdoor grills at the family reunion picnic.

Yet every summer also brings the tragic result of fires and injuries due to improper and unsafe outdoor cooking. Layton Fire Department officials report that annually, nearly 5,000 people nationwide are injured by charcoal/wood-burning and propane grill fires.

A few simple reminders and steps can keep summer safe and the time of fun and making happy memories that it should be. Here are the things to remember:

Outdoor Cooking Fire Safety

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) found that gas and charcoal grills are responsible for 3,400 structure fires, resulting in property loss of $137 million. Gas-fueled grills caused approximately 2,800 structure fires and 4,400 home outdoor fires in 2005. Charcoal and other solid-fueled grills caused approximately 600 home structure fires and 500 outdoor fires.

When using charcoal grills

• Purchase the proper starter fluid and store the can out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.

• Never add charcoal fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going.

When using propane grills

• Check the gas cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A soapy water solution applied to the hose will reveal leaking propane by forming bubbles. If you find a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame:

1. Turn off the gas tank and grill.
2. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
3. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.

• If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.

• Use only equipment with the label of a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.

• Never store propane gas cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.

Source: NFPA

Barbecue Safety Tips

• Propane and charcoal BBQ grills must only be used outdoors. If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces such as tents, they pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to toxic gases and potential asphyxiation.

• Position the grill well away from siding, deck railing, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

• Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas, and foot traffic.

• Keep children and pets from the grill area: declare a three-foot "safe zone" around the grill.

• Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when cooking.

• Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

Source: NFPA