Fire in the grill, under hot dogs and burgers, is a welcome sight at the family cookout. But fire anywhere else can make your summer barbecue memorable for all the wrong reasons. Because gas and charcoal grills cause an average of 1,500 structure fires and 4,800 outdoor fires in or on home properties, the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) offers these sensible outdoor grilling tips to help you keep your cookout safe and fun.
Position the grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic.
Declare the entire grill area a "kid-free zone" until the grill has completely cooled off.
Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when flipping burgers.
If you have a charcoal grill, purchase the proper starter fluid and store the can out of reach of children, and away from heat sources.
If you have a propane grill, check the propane cylinder hose for leaks before using it. A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will quickly reveal escaping propane by releasing bubbles. Have leaking fuel lines repaired before using.
All propane cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices (OPD). OPDs shut off the flow of propane before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up. OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel.
If you are using fluid to start a charcoal grill, use only fluid intended for this purpose. It is extremely dangerous to substitute any other combustible liquid to start the coals. This is especially true for gasoline, which can be ignited explosively by even a tiny spark.
Apply starter fluid directly to the coals, then reseal and put away the can. Light the coals carefully, avoiding the flame flare-up. Store the can out of reach of children and away from heat sources.
When you've finished cooking, keep an eye on the grill until it has completely cooled. Charcoal can be soaked with water to speed the cooling process, but use extreme caution to avoid the steam and splatters, which can cause burns.
A final word about cookouts: Propane and charcoal BBQ grills must only be used outdoors. If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents, they pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to toxic gases and potential asphyxiation.