As Rocklanders relax and enjoy the Memorial Day holiday weekend, Rockland County Fire and Emergency Services Gordon Wren Jr. is pretty certain that a good number of them will be getting a visit from their local volunteer firefighters.
This weekend is notorious, Wren said, for homeowners and renters alike having accidents with their barbecue grills, causing serious damage and injury.
“This is the weekend that everyone is using their grills and for many of them this is the first time they are using their grills this year,” said Wren. “They need to remember some basic things to avoid a fire and doing serious damage to their home.”
For starters, Wren said you should do a basic check of your grill to make sure it’s in good working order. If it’s gas grill, Wren said to check the hoses that supply gas to the grill, making certain the hoses are not brittle or cracked.
Wren said an excessive gas smell can be a signal of cracked hoses from the gas supply.
“If you smell gas … too much gas … turn off the gas right away,” said Wren, who is also a volunteer Hillcrest firefighter.
As for the grill itself, Wren said to make sure it is not directly up against your home. Wren said many late spring and summer fires are the result of grills that were too close to a home.
Wren also urges Rocklanders not to use a grill on balconies, and to avoid using a grill on a deck.
Emergency officials also warn that the grill should not be in an area where children are playing.
“When gatherings involve children, it’s critical that a child-free zone of at least three feet is established around the grill,” said David Jacobowitz, president of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New Yrok. “It’s important to position the grill far away from siding, deck railings, trees and other flammables.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, from 2004-2008, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7,700 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues per year, including an average of 3,200 structure fires and 4,500 outside fires.
— 7,700 fires caused an annual average of 13 civilian deaths, 120 civilian injuries and $70 million in direct property damage.
— Gas grills were involved in an average of 6,200 home fires, and charcoal or other solid-fueled grills were involved in 1,300 home fires.
— More than one-quarter of the home structure fires involving grills started on a courtyard, terrace or patio, 28 percent started on an exterior balcony or open porch, and 7 percent started in the kitchen, according to the association.
Here’s a rundown of the basics for holiday cook out safety:
- Check your grill thoroughly for leaks, cracking or brittleness before using it.
- Check the tubes leading to the burner regularly for blockages. Check your specific grill manufacturer's instructions.
- Make sure the grill is at least 10 feet away from your house, garage or trees.
- Store and use your grill on a large flat surface that cannot burn (i.e.- concrete or asphalt).
- Don't use grills in a garage, on a porch, deck or on top of anything that can catch on fire. Never use a propane barbecue grill on a balcony, terrace or roof; it is both dangerous and illegal.
- Keep children away from fires and grills. It is a good idea to establish a safety zone around the grill and instruct children to remain outside the zone.
- Before getting a propane cylinder filled, check for any damages to it.
- Never transport or store propane cylinders in the trunk of your automobile.
- Keep children away from the grill.
- Don't wear loose clothing that might catch fire.
- Use long-handled barbecue tools and/or flame-resistant mitts.
- Never use any flammable liquid other than a barbecue starter fluid to start/freshen a fire.
- Never pour or squirt starter fluid onto an open flame. The flame can easily flashback along the fluid's path to the container in your hands.
- Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable.
- Never leave the grill unattended.
- When lighting your propane barbecue, make sure all the connections are secure, open the lid and strike your match or lighter before turning on the gas.
- Always shut off the propane fuel at the grill and at the bottle after you have finished barbecuing. Otherwise, this will lead to fire hazards, such as leaks and faulty regulators.
- Store your BBQ grill and propane cylinder outdoors.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the safe use, cleaning and maintenance of your grill.
- Test your cylinder for leaks on a regular basis. When testing for leaks, never use matches or an open flame. Use soapy water or a leak detector.
- Store your cylinder away from heat and insert a safety plug on the valve.
- Always follow the manufacturer's cleaning and storing instructions that accompany the grill.
- Keep your grill clean and free of grease buildup that may lead to a fire.
- Never store liquid or pressurized fuels inside your home and/or near any possible sources of flame.
IN CASE OF A BARBECUE FIRE:
- For PROPANE grills - turn off the burners. For CHARCOAL grills - close the grill lid. Disconnect the power to ELECTRIC grills.
- For PROPANE grills - if you can safely reach the tank valve, shut it off.
- If the fire involves the tank, leave it alone, evacuate the area and call for help using 911.
- If there is any type of fire that either threatens your personal safety or endangers property, ALWAYS call 911.
- NEVER attempt to extinguish a grease fire with water. It will only cause the flames to flare up. Use an approved portable fire extinguisher.