Each year, the Rowley Fire Department responds to numerous grill fire emergencies, many of which could easily be avoided by practicing safe outdoor cooking and proper grill maintenance.
“Remember that in most cases, people are cooking with propane gas – which can be explosive and dangerous if not properly handled,” said Rowley Fire Chief James Broderick. “Propane tanks and grills have many safeguards – but things can quickly go wrong if people don’t use caution.”
As Memorial Day approaches and more people are getting their grills out of storage in preparation for holiday cookouts and the summer season, the Rowley Fire Department is reminding residents to use care and caution when barbecuing outdoors.
In 2003-2006, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7,900 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues per year, including an average of 2,900 structure fires and 5,000 outside fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). During this period, there were an average of 10 deaths, 120 reported injuries and $80 million in direct property damage each year.
It’s important to note that gas grills account for the majority of fires. Nationally, gas grills are used 1.5 times more often than charcoal grills, but were involved in five times as many fires. Gas grills directly led to 6,400 home fires, including 2,100 structure fires, and 4,300 outdoor fires, according to the NFPA.
Town firefighters routinely respond to grill fires during the hot summer months, Broderick said.
“The most important safety tip is to keep the grill away from your home, patio, or anything flammable,” Broderick said. “Also remember that a hot grill can lead to serious injuries to children and pets.”
If you have a propane-gas grill, it’s important to check the tank hose for leaks before using it for the season, according to the NFPA. To test, apply a light soap and water solution to the hose and turn on the tank. If there is a propane leak, you should see bubbles or smell gas. If your grill has a leak, and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and have it serviced by a professional. If the gas leak does not stop, call the Fire Department by dialing 911. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.
Other tips for safe outdoor grilling include:
- Always use a propane or barbecue grill outdoors, never inside.
- Keep your grill clean of grease and fat build up. Remember to clean up the drip tray beneath the grill, if you have one.
- Keep your grill away from trees and overhanging branches
- Never leave your grill unattended
If you use charcoal grills, please follow these safety tips:
- If you can avoid the use of flammable fuels, like charcoal starter fluid, it will reduce your risk of accident and fire. Consider using a charcoal chimney starter, which allows you to start your fire with paper rather than flammable liquids.
- In addition to a charcoal chimney starter (available at many hardware stores), there are also electric starter units. Be sure to use a heavy duty extension cord for outdoor use.
- If you do use charcoal starter fuel, then do not use other flammable liquids like gasoline.
- Remember to store charcoal starter fuel away from children and flammable materials
- Let your coals completely cool before removing.
The Rowley Fire Department is located at 7 Hammond St., Rowley, MA. The department consists of three full-time firefighters, including the Fire Chief, and about two dozen call firefighters. The Rowley Fire Department responds to hundreds of calls per year. For more information, visit RFD on the Web at www.rowleyfire.org or follow the latest department news on Facebook and Twitter.