Avoid burns and trauma this summer
Summer is the outdoor cooking season and everyone is getting ready to fire up grills and open-flame pits. But open flame carries risks. July is the peak month for grill fires with 17 percent of the total, followed by May (14 percent), June (14 percent) and August (13 percent).
According to information from the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. firefighters went to an annual average of 9,600 fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues from 2011–2015. The total includes 4,100 structure fires and 5,500 outside or unclassified fires.
From 2012–2016, an average of 16,600 people per year went to emergency rooms because of grilling injuries. Half of the injuries, about 8,200, were thermal burns — burns that happen when a person comes into contact with a heated object such as a grill grate. Disturbingly, children younger than five years accounted for an average of 1,600, or one-third, of thermal non-fire grill burns.
Some cooking grills can quickly reach over 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Proper grill maintenance is key in preventing fires while cooking outside this summer. Open flame also can be a source of carbon monoxide so whether you’re grilling with propane or charcoal, be sure to do it outside in an area with plenty of ventilation.
Fire fighters often are called out for blazes that start with someone having a backyard barbecue. Most grill injuries happen because of carelessness, not following the instructions, not paying attention or taking shortcuts. Grilling on or near combustible areas can be a fire hazard. It not only puts your family and visitors at risk, but, especially in condos and apartment buildings, can put your neighbors in danger as well. The most common grilling hazards are open flames and heat generated in the grill base that can be transferred to the wood of a balconies or the home’s siding, causing a fire. When grilling, follow these safety tips:
- Use propane and charcoal grills outside only.
- The grill should be located away from home siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
- Periodically remove grease or fat buildup from grills and in trays below the grill.
- Use only proper starter fluid and store the can away from heat sources.
- Check propane cylinder hoses for leaks before use by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose and connections. A leak will cause large bubbles.
- Do not move hot grills.
- Always make sure the lid of a gas grill is open before igniting.
- Use a chimney lighter to start a charcoal grill. If you do use starter fluid, make sure it is indicated for charcoal only. Never add charcoal fluid or other flammable liquids to the fire.
- Keep starter fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
- Electric starters are available. They require an extension cord rated for outdoor use.
- Never leave grills unattended.
- Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
- Dispose of charcoal properly, letting the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container outside and away from combustible construction.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and learn how to use it. Keep a spray bottle or bucket of water nearby for minor flare-ups.
Be sure to check with your local building or fire department to see what is required by code where you live. The International Fire Code prohibits the use of charcoal and gas grills and other open burning devices on combustible balconies or within 10 feet of combustible construction. There are exceptions for certain homes and where buildings, balconies and decks are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.
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