By Elaine Rackley
The Henry County Fire Department (HCFD) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are reminding the public to practice safety when grilling this summer.
"As we approach the peak season for grill fires, the Henry County Fire Department urges citizens to practice fire safety when grilling, and always follow their grill manufacturer's guidelines," said Captain Sabrina Puckett spokesperson for the HCFD.
"When you are finished grilling, always let the coals completely cool before disposing [of them], and always dispose in a metal container, away from your home," continued Capt. Puckett.
Between 2004, through 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. These 7,700 fires caused an annual average of 13 civilian deaths, 120 civilian injuries and $70 million in direct property damage, according to the NFPA.
In addition, in 2009, roughly 17,700 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries incurred by grill usage.
"Summer barbecues can be a great time, but nobody wants to see a fun backyard event spoiled by fire," said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for NFPA. "There are many simple measures you can take to prevent damage to property, injury, and death related to grilling fires."
The NFPA offers the following grilling safety tips:
Only use propane and charcoal grills outside of the home -- never use them indoors. Make sure the grill is positioned well away from the home and/or deck railings, and that it is not underneath any eaves or overhanging branches. It should also be far from any lawn games, play areas, or foot traffic.
Establish a child- and pet-free zone around the grill of at least three feet. Use grilling tools that have long handles, which will allow more clearance from the flames. Remember to clean fat and grease off the grill and from trays underneath it regularly, in order to reduce the risk of it igniting.
Never leave the grill unattended.
Gas grills: Before using the grill for the first time each year, check the gas tank hose for leaks. To do this, apply a light soap and water solution to the hose and turn the tank on. If the hose releases bubbles, this indicates a propane leak. If you find a leak, turn the gas tank off. If the leak stops, take your grill to a professional to be serviced before further use. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
Only use equipment bearing the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Use the manufacturer's instructions regarding assembly, use, and proper care of the grill. If you smell gas while using the grill, get away from the grill immediately and call the fire department. Do not store propane tanks indoors in houses or garages. If storing your grill indoors during the winter months, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.
Charcoal grills: If using a "charcoal chimney" to light charcoal for grilling, use a long match to avoid burning your fingers while lighting the paper. Never add starter fluid to coals or kindling that have already been ignited -- and use only charcoal starter fluid. Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquid. Keep charcoal fluid away from heat sources and out of reach of children.
When finished grilling, wait for the coals to cool completely and then dispose of them in a metal container.
For more information visit the NFPA's web site at http://www.nfpa.org/grilling.