Editorial: Grilling in summer is fun, but remember to take safety precautions when you do

Jul. 11, 2013 @ 11:56 PM

If you are among millions who enjoy outdoor grilling in the summer, then you know it is an enjoyable and potentially risky operation. Summer is also the peak season for grilling fires. State Fire Marshal Julie McPea urges outdoor cooks to keep fire safety in mind as they start up the grill this summer.

“Practice safety, whenever you grill,” she said. “Place your grill well away from siding, deck railings, eaves and overhanging branches.” She added, “Never leave a grill unattended.”

She recommends these safety tips:

  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area by declaring a three-foot “safe zone” around the grill.
  • Periodically remove grease buildup in trays to prevent ignition by a hot grill.
  • Propane, charcoal and wood pellet barbecue grills must be used outdoors only. Indoor use can kill home occupants by carbon monoxide poisoning or by causing a fire.
  • Do not store or use a grill on a porch or balcony, including any porch or balcony on an upper level of the building.
  • Gas grills have a higher fire risk than charcoal grills. Leaks and breaks in the gas cylinder or hose are the leading cause of gas grill fires. Placing combustibles too close to heat and leaving cooking unattended are two other leading causes.
  • Check the gas cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year by applying a light soap-and-water solution to the hose. Escaping propane will quickly be revealed through bubbling seen along the hose.

If you determine your grill has a gas leak, turn off the valve on the tank and have the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.

  • 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 gas cylinders with an overfill protection device (OPD). OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel. OPDs shut off the flow of gas before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up.
  • Always store propane gas tanks outside of buildings and garages. Vapors leaked indoors can be easily ignited by pilot lights or electrical equipment, causing an explosion. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the tank or cylinder and leave it outside.
  • Only light a propane grill with the cover open.

If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 15 minutes before re-lighting it.

  • When using charcoal grills, consider using a chimney starter. This is a cylindrical metal tube that uses paper to start the coals. If you use starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling already have ignited.
  • Dispose of charcoal coals only after they are cool. Empty the coals into a metal container with a tight-fitting lid that is only used to collect coals. Never empty coals directly into a trash can. Place away from anything that can burn.

Enjoy the summer and those tasty grilled dishes, but remember to be safety-conscious as you cook.