Every year Americans look forward to summer vacations, family reunions, picnics, and the Fourth of July. Summertime, however, also brings fires and injuries due to outdoor cooking and recreational fires. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that every year over 5,000 accidents occur with residential barbeques and fire pits. The United States Fire Administration (USAF) notes that over half of grill fires occur in May, June, July, and August. Almost half (49 %) happen in the evening hours from 5 to 8 PM. Fortunately, by practicing some basic safety tips everyone can enjoy being with family and friends while grilling meals or gathering around the ambience of a fire.
Tips to remember when grilling include these fire safety basics:
• Propane and charcoal grills must only be used outdoors.
• Position grill well away from siding, deck railing, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
• Place grill a safe distance from lawn games, play area, and foot traffic.
• Maintain a 3-foot “kids-free zone” around the grill.
• Use long-handled grilling tools to give the chef clearance from heat and flames when cooking.
There are several ways to get charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel. If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid (or any other flammable liquids) to lit coals. There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.
Before firing up the propane grill for the summer, check the gas tank hose for leaks. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your gas grill has a gas leak, by smell or by the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. 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.
Collierville Fire Code requires a fire pit to be located 15 feet from a structure (or combustible materials) and it must be attended constantly by an adult until the fire is extinguished. Other considerations include putting the fire pit in an open area on a solid surface (not wood) where it is not under a canopy, roof eaves, or any overhanging branches. Never build a fire on a windy day or if a burn ban is in effect. Start the fire small with either a starter fire log or tightly bunched up newspaper. Use a spark guard. Keep a fire extinguisher, a bucket of sand, and/or a garden hose nearby.
Whether grilling or enjoying a fire pit, review these crucial fire safety rules concerning children with everyone in your family. First, never leave children unattended for a moment when a grill or fire pit is lit. Do not allow children to use grills or fire pits. Never let a child light the fire. And, teach children what to do in a fire emergency. This includes reviewing basic burn safety: Cool water soothes minor red burns and “Stop, Drop, Cover and Roll” in case any clothing accidently catches fire (Never run). Children can be taught to call 9-1-1 for emergencies when they are old enough to state their name and address and follow directions from a phone dispatcher.
By adopting a few basic fire safety tips family and friends can enjoy many a grilled meal and warm evening fires this summer.