Summer grilling should be a time of fun and creating memories. Learning and following a few fire safety tips will ensure everyone has a safe summer.
Annually, almost 3,800 Americans are injured by gas or charcoal grill fires, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
An estimated 5,700 grill fires occur on residential properties each year in the United States. Of those, 32 percent are on patios, terraces, screened porches or courtyards. More than half are in May through August, most between 5 and 8 p.m.
In 2004-08, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7,700 home fires involving home grills, hibachis or barbecues per year, including an average of 3,200 structure fires and 4,500 outside fires. Those 7,700 fires caused annual average of 13 civilian deaths, 120 reported injuries and 70 million in direct damage (Source: “Home fires involving cooking equipment,” by Marty Ahrens).
General safety tips
Propane and charcoal barbecue grills must only be used outdoors. If used indoors or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents, they pose a fire hazard and a risk of exposing occupants to deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic. Grills should be positioned at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railing and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
Keep matches, lighters and starter fluid out of the reach of children in a locked drawer or cabinet.
Keep children and pets away from the grill area by declaring a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around the grill.
Use long barbecue mitts and long-handled grilling tools to protect the chef from heat and flames when cooking.
Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.
Buy proper starter fluid, and store it out of reach of children and away from heat sources.
Never add charcoal starter fluid after coals or kindling have been ignited, and never use any other flammable or combustible liquid to get the fire going.
Check the propane cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A light soap-and-water solution applied to the hose will reveal escaping propane quickly by forming bubbles.
If you have determined that your grill has a gas leak and there is no flame, you should:
• Turn off the propane 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. Do not try to move the grill.
All propane cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices. OPDs shut off the flow of propane before capacity is reached, limiting the chance that propane gas would be released if the cylinder heats up. OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel.
Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
Never store propane cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.
First aid for burns
For minor burns, the Mayo Clinic recommends the following:
Cool the burn. Hold the burned area under cool (not cold) running water for 10 to 15 minutes or until the pain subsides. If this is impractical, immerse it in cool water or cool it with cold compresses. This reduces swelling by carrying heat away from the skin. Don’t put ice on a burn.
Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage, wrapping loosely. Don’t use fluffy cotton or another material that might get lint in the wound. Bandaging keeps air off the burn, which reduces pain and protects blistered skin.
Finally, take an over-the-counter pain reliever. If you have concerns, talk to a doctor.
• This is an occasional column written by public safety officers. Pat Vargas is a Tracy Fire Department captain.