Grill Safe this Memorial Day
Cedar Park Fire Department Memorial Day Safety Message
Leonard Chan, Cedar Park Fire Department
Memorial Day often comes with the smells of burgers, hot dogs, and even vegetables on the grill. Amateur and expert barbecue pit masters must remain conscious of safety, or the food is not the only thing that becomes burned. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, grilling accidents result in an average of 3,400 structure fires and 4,800 outdoor fires nationwide each year. These 8,200 fires cause approximately 15 deaths, 120 injuries, and $75 million in property damage annually.
Charcoal and propane grills pose different hazards, but regardless of the type of grill, no one should ever barbecue in an enclosed space. Without enough fresh air, individuals and families become exposed to potentially lethal doses of carbon monoxide as well as creating a serious fire hazard. Placement of the grill also matters. For example, do not place the grill within ten feet of any deck rails or the home itself. Likewise, no low-hanging tree branches, shrubs, brush, or piles of leaves should be in the vicinity of the grilling area.
Before firing up a propane grill for the first time each year, a simple gas leak check is highly recommended. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. The presence of bubbles reveals escaping propane through a leak, and at this point, you should immediately turn off the gas tank and grill. After the leak stops, a professional should service the grill before further use. If the valve cannot be turned off and the leak continues, the fire department can monitor the emptying of the tank.
Charcoal may provide additional flavor but pose additional hazards. Although keeping a charcoal fire alive may be a challenging endeavor, never resort to shortcuts as the use of gasoline and kerosene, instead of liquid charcoal lighter fluid, which may lead to disastrous results. Dry kindling instead of additional lighter fluid should be used in efforts to revive the flame. The flame can climb the fluid stream back to its source and explode. At the end of the cookout, wait until the coals cool before abandoning the grill. If necessary, carefully douse the coals with water rather than using the full force of a garden hose to avoid splashes and splatters. Once completely cold, dispose the coals.
Following these steps will help prevent uninvited, yet welcomed, fire fighters from attending your family cookout.