Barbecue safely this summer

As the long-awaited summer approaches, everyone is beginning to pull out and dust off those coveted barbecue grills that may have been hibernating for the winter. Barbecue grills are a welcome sight at a family gathering, unfortunately, when fire gets out of hand while grilling, it could make your summer kick-off barbecue an unpleasant memory.

According to the National Fire Protection Association in 2008, gas and charcoal grills cause more than 3,400 structure fires and 4,900 outdoor fires in or on home properties, resulting in a combined direct property loss of $137 million.

Gas grills have a higher fire risk than charcoal grills. Leaks and gas line breaks are the leading cause, accounting for two-fifths (41 percent) of the gas grill structure and outdoor fires. More than one-third (35 percent) of all gas grill home structure fires began on an exterior balcony or unenclosed structure.

Here are some recommended NFPA and fire safety tips to keep you fire safe while barbecuing and grilling all summer long:

• Never use propane and charcoal barbecue grills indoors.
• Position the grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves, awnings and overhanging branches.
• Keep children and pets away from the grill area; declare a three-foot “safe zone” around the grill.
• Remove grease or fat buildup in trays below  the grill so a hot grill cannot ignite it.
• For charcoal grills, purchase the proper starter fluid and store the can out of reach of children and away from heat sources. Never add charcoal starter 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.
• For propane grills, check the gas cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will quickly reveal escaping propane by releasing bubbles. 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 Underwriters Laboratory or Consultants Europe label, which are nationally recognized testing laboratories. Follow the manufacturers’ 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.
(Courtesy of 835th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Prevention Office)